Former volunteer at York, SC, church pleads guilty to improper touching of child

A former volunteer at a York, S.C., church has been sentenced to eight months in prison after pleading guilty to improperly touching a child while at church in 2021, according to court records and prosecutors.

Ira James Summerlin, 77, of York, pleaded guilty in York County criminal court Wednesday to third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, said prosecutor Misti Shelton, 16th Circuit assistant deputy solicitor.

The crime happened in late January 2021 at Central Baptist Church where Summerlin was a volunteer in a childrens program, Shelton said. The church banned Summerlin from church property after his arrest and ended his affiliation, church officials said in 2021 after his arrest.

The Herald does not identify child victims in sex-related crimes.

Summerlin was arrested by York Police Department detectives in 2021 after police obtained video that showed the incident, records show.

No prior record before guilty plea

Summerlin pleaded guilty Wednesday before a trial scheduled in the case started.

Before the guilty plea, Summerlin had no prior criminal record, according to Jim Boyd, one of Summerlin’s lawyers.

S.C. Circuit Court Judge Eugene Griffith sentenced Summerlin to eight months active time in the S.C. Department of Corrections, according to Shelton and records in the case. The judge reduced a six-year prison term to the eight months, records show.

Shelton said after court she asked the judge for an active prison sentence. A conviction for the charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, South Carolina law shows.

Summerlin also was sentenced to 30 months probation, and must register as a convicted sex offender upon release from prison, according to Shelton and court records.

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