Ex-minister testifies at his Internet sex trial

January 07, 2003

A former Dundalk minister accused of using the Internet to set up a sexual rendezvous with a 13-year-old girl last year said yesterday that he never believed he was talking with a child online -- only with an adult who may have been "so burned out sexually" that she wanted to play-act.

Lying was common in the chat room he used to set up sex dates with strangers, Jonathan N. Gerstner, 45, testified during his daylong trial in Howard Circuit Court. "It was kind of the rules of the game in a chat room," Gerstner said.

It is legally impossible for Gerstner to have committed a crime because there was no minor at the other end of the keyboard, only a Maryland state trooper posing as "jennifer 000013," a young girl from Bowie, said his attorney, Joseph Murtha.

Judge Diane O. Leasure, who is trying the case instead of a jury, is expected to issue a verdict Friday.

Gerstner, former senior pastor at Inverness Presbyterian Church, is charged with solicitation of a minor using a computer, attempted second-degree rape and attempted second-degree sexual offense.

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