WHEATON, Ill. (STMW) — A former pastor and community college instructor was sentenced Friday to six months in DuPage County Jail for sexually molesting a girl from Naperville on numerous occasions in 2010.

DuPage County Circuit Court Judge Daniel P. Guerin could have sentenced the man, James W. French, to as long as seven years in prison for the assaults. Guerin cited French’s accomplished life and lack of a prior criminal record in imposing the jail term.

French, 64, of upstate Dakota, was the founding pastor of Indian Grove Country Church in Rock City. He was working at the time of his arrest as an adjunct professor of U.S. history and Western and Eastern civilization at Rock Valley College in Rockford.

Guerin at the end of the hearing ordered French taken into custody to immediately begin his jail term, said Paul Darrah, spokesman for State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin. French is ineligible for day-for-day credit for good behavior, and must serve all six months of the sentence.

Darrah said French also was placed on three years of sex offender probation, ordered to have no further contact with the victim and register for the rest of his life as a sex offender. He also must undergo therapy if deemed appropriate, can have no unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 17 and is barred from using the Internet, Darrah said.

French pleaded guilty Oct. 17 to a felony charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim under the age of 18. Three similar charges were dismissed in exchange for that plea.

The girl’s father on Jan. 18 testified French abused his daughter for about a year in several states. The girl “eventually came to believe that if she did not say something, at some point what happened to her would most likely happen” to her siblings, the father wrote in a victim impact statement.

Testimony showed the girl in November 2010 barricaded herself inside a bathroom and called her parents after being molested again by French. “She was stunned, confused and horrified,” her father told Guerin.

The girl today “literally is terrified of the defendant,” the father said. “She genuinely fears he will remove his (court-mandated) GPS ankle bracelet, fly to our house in a helicopter, land on our front lawn, climb into her bedroom, and attack her.”

Naperville police and officials of the DuPage County Children’s Advocacy Center investigated French, and were instrumental in his being arrested and charged in the case.

French is a former member of the Stephenson County Board. He has a master of divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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