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Faith was frequently referenced at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing for a man found guilty of sexually molesting a 7-year-old girl in York County nearly a year-and-a-half ago.
Melvin Lamont Randall Sr., 45, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated sexual battery of a minor under 13 in York-Poquoson Circuit Court last January.
Randall was sentenced to 20 years in prison with 13 years suspended at the conclusion of the hearing, but prior to that point both sides had a chance to weigh in on the moral character of the defendant.
Over a dozen members of the church Randall attends, of which his brother is the founder and pastor, turned out to support him at the hearing.
Five members of Randall’s family, including two brothers, one sister, his daughter and his wife, took the stand to testify about his character, and much of their testimony centered on his faith and relationship with God.
“Melvin Lamont Randall is a person of good moral character,” said Alicia Randall, the defendant’s younger sister. “I realize this may be hard to believe, given the circumstances of what he’s charged with, but nonetheless it is true.”
Randall was arrested in November 2014 after deputies from the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office found him acting suspiciously at the scene of a reported disturbance, court records show.
Randall was seen exiting the backseat of a vehicle blocking an alley on the 200 block of Old York-Hampton Highway when deputies arrived on the scene. When a deputy asked him to get on the ground, Randall refused and got back into the front seat of the car, at which time the deputies noticed there was a young girl putting her shirt on in the back seat.
After several moments, Randall stepped out of the car and was directed to the ground, where the lieutenant held him at gunpoint, according to the documents.
The girl, who knew Randall through their church and who was supposed to be taking part in a church fundraiser under his supervision that day, told authorities he had been hugging and kissing her and that she was sad. She was later taken to Sentara Medical Center, where traces of seminal fluid were found on her leg.
Despite agreeing that the facts of Melvin Randall’s crime are abhorrent, Steven Randall Sr., the defendant’s brother and pastor at Faith Alive Ministry, echoed Alicia Randall’s testimony and added that he had seen a major shift in his brother’s demeanor since his imprisonment.
Steven Randall testified he regularly visited Melvin in jail in his capacity as a clergyman and also told the court about the jail ministry the defendant had founded during his time there, which engages in daily Bible study.
Randall’s daughter took the stand to testify that crime was entirely out of character for the father she knew, stating he was “the epitome of a God-fearing man.”
Randall himself spoke to the role religion had played in helping him in the aftermath of his crime, addressing the judge directly and assuring him he could “say with full confidence that I have won the battle with this demon through the power of Jesus Christ.”
Character witnesses also testified to Randall’s generosity of spirit and the abuse he had endured in his own childhood, citing both as reasons they hoped that court would be lenient.
Defense Attorney Christopher Voltin asked Judge Richard Rizk to take Randall’s acceptance of responsibility for his crime and his generosity of spirit into account by adhering to the recommended sentencing guideline for the charge against him, which calls for between one year and 10 months and five years and one month of active prison time.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Donna Maw argued the court should exceed the sentencing guideline given the facts of the case and Randall’s role as a trusted authority figure to the victim.
“No one but you, Judge, can protect these children,” Maw said. “He’s a pedophile. You don’t pray that away.”
Rizk ultimately sided with the prosecution, exceeding the guideline and sentencing Randall to seven years of active prison time.
“My job is not to judge you as a man, but to judge the crime that comes before me,” Rizk said. “The guidelines as I see them are just wholly inappropriate when I consider the underlying facts.”
Upon his release, Randall is forbidden to have unsupervised contact with minors and will have to register as a sex offender.