By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — Snohomish County prosecutors say it was against the law for a Lynnwood man to have sex with a 17-year-old girl because he was the teen’s youth church leader at the time.
James Lim, 26, is accused of abusing a “supervisory position” in order to engage in sexual intercourse with the teen. In general, the legal age for consensual sex in Washington is 16. Prosecutors, however, allege that Lim was forbidden from having sex with the teen because of his job with the church.
Lim was charged this week with first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor and second-degree possession of child pornography. He is expected to be arraigned on the charges later this month in Snohomish County Superior Court.
The allegations came to the attention of Lynnwood police last year. The teen told officers that beginning in 2010 she’d had sex with her church leader, whom she had known since she was a child through her involvement with the Zion Presbyterian Church in Shoreline.
The lead pastor reportedly told detectives that the defendant was of “considerable influence and leadership” at the church as a Bible study leader for the youth groups. He also chaperoned the church’s youth mission trips to Jamaica in 2010.
The teen reported to police that the defendant first expressed a sexual interest in her during a youth retreat in spring 2010, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Andrew Alsdorf wrote in charging papers. Lim allegedly told the girl he’d been attracted to her since she was 13. The teen reported that the pair engaged in sexual contact during the church trip to Jamaica.
The relationship continued over several months. The teen reported that they’d had sexual intercourse up to three dozen times at the man’s home, his girlfriend’s apartment and in a car.
The teen also told investigators that Lim took naked photographs of her and convinced her to expose herself while they video chatted online. She insisted that he delete the naked pictures but Lim reportedly refused, saying he would keep them in a secret file on his computer, according to court records.
Lim’s girlfriend discovered the alleged relationship after reviewing Lim’s online chat history. Prosecutors said that Lim convinced the teen to tell the church pastor that they had only kissed and held hands. The pastor ordered the defendant to leave the church and forbade him from having contact with the teen. She didn’t disclose the allegations of sexual abuse until April 2011 when she was confronted by her family and the lead pastor’s wife, Alsdorf wrote.
She filed a report with police a couple of weeks later. Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives searched Lim’s house in May 2011, seizing his computers and camera.
A few months later, Lim reportedly sent the woman, now 18, a postcard professing his love.
In February, the sheriff’s lone computer forensic detective searched Lim’s laptop and discovered more than 100 images of the teen in various stages of undress, according to court papers. Prosecutors say they had been waiting on computer evidence to file the felony charges. The images corroborate the teen’s report, Alsdorf said.
Lim doesn’t have any criminal history.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.