(Memphis) A now-former COGIC pastor told his story for the first time when he pleaded guilty to molesting an underage family member for the past two years.
Thursday, Michael Bryant was sentenced to six years in prison as part of a plea deal.
He had hoped to get probation instead so he could get psychological help and work.
"I take full responsibility with everything that has happened, and I regret that it happened," said Bryant.
Bryant said he's sorry for fondling a 16-year-old family member as many as two times a month for two years.
In court, he told the judge he tried to go to a therapist, but was afraid they would call the cops.
Instead, the father of four turned to his church, Hour of Restoration COGIC in Hickory Hill.
"In every message that I preached over the last two years, I was talking about some of things I was involved in, but I was too ashamed to tell what was going on with me," said Bryant.
Bryant says he first admitted the crime to his wife at church. She never told police.
In December, his victim told an aunt, and Bryant was arrested for sexual battery by an authority figure.
The child had told her mother about the abuse a year before Bryant’s arrest, according to an affidavit, but the mother later said she decided to pray the abuse would stop.
Prosecutors chose not to prosecute the mother.
Family and friends came to court. Some took the stand, and, in tears, they supported Bryant and begged for mercy.
Bryant asked for probation, but the judge made it clear that would not happen.
He will be eligible for parole in two years.
Bryant has spent 78 days in jail. That will be applied to his sentence.
COGIC closed Bryant's church in January. DHS is offering counseling to the family member molested.