Jury Convicts Pastor In Child Abuse Case

Jurors have convicted a Black Earth pastor of conspiracy to commit child abuse for advocating the use of wooden rods to spank children.

The Dane County jury took about two hours to find 54-year-old Philip Caminiti guilty of eight counts Wednesday.

Caminiti, pastor at Aleitheia Bible Church, was found guilty of instructing members of his church that infants and toddlers were not too young to be struck on the bare buttocks with wood dowels to teach them to behave.

Caminiti told investigators his actions were in accordance with biblical teachings.

Closing arguments in the trial focused on the pastor’s influence on members of the Aletheia Bible Church.

Prosecutors argued that Caminiti instructed his congregation to use wooden rods and dowels on their infant and toddler children in accordance with a literal interpretation of the Bible.

“And if these people are going to get the to right side of heaven, where apparently only they are going, it is on the bottoms of those babies that they’re getting there,” said Dane County Assistant District Attorney Shelly Rusch during closing arguments. “And I ask you not to sign on to that sacrifice.”

Jurors were tasked with deciding whether Caminiti’s child-rearing influence reached beyond his own home.

“The whole issue about whether you agree with their parenting style is not really the question,” said Caminiti’s attorney, Yolanda Lehner, during her closing arguments.

Caminiti now faces up to six years in prison and extended supervision and a $10,000 fine for each of the eight child abuse conspiracy counts.

Emotions ran high for Caminiti’s family members, but the defendant remained pleasant, hugging his attorney after the verdict, and leaving the courtroom without public comment.

“It’s the first conspiracy case I prosecuted,” said Rusch. “I do child abuse, sexual assault primarily. And there are no conspiracies in the land of child abuse and sexual assault. It’s typically a drug-related crime, so it was very new to me, and new to the state of Wisconsin.”

Caminiti remains free on signature bond but was ordered not to leave Dane County. Sentencing is expected in about two months.