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Lawyer for youth pastor says sex charge is unbelievable

SPRING HILL — It's what you'd expect a defense attorney to say.

But in asserting his client's innocence, Brooksville attorney Peyton Hyslop said the facts of the case will bear out what many people are also saying about Brian Brijbag, a well-known youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Brooksville and an active community volunteer until his arrest last week on a charge of unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

"What I've heard from people in the community is that no one believes that this can be true," Hyslop said in an interview Thursday evening after meeting with Brijbag for the first time.

A 35-year-old married father of three, Brijbag is accused of having consensual sex with a 17-year-old female church member in his office last summer at the church's Howell Avenue campus, allegedly on more than one occasion, Brooksville police say.

One day last July, an 18-year-old woman also took part in a sexual encounter with Brijbag and the girl, police Chief George Turner said last week. The woman is now a witness in the case.

"Brian adamantly denies that anything at all inappropriate occurred, and we're confident that once all the facts are out, everyone will see there's absolutely nothing to these charges," Hyslop said.

The investigation is essentially complete, Turner said Friday.

"Detectives are continuing to follow up with some loose ends but it's more or less in the hands now of the State Attorney's Office and Mr. Brijbag's attorney and the judicial system," Turner said.

Whether the allegations are true or not, they have upended Brijbag's life.

Church officials first learned of the accusations a couple of weeks prior to the arrest, placed him on paid leave and informed authorities. Soon after, Brijbag resigned.

He was popular with the church's youth, but stopped attending the weekly meetings of Fire Xscape, the First Baptist student ministry he'd worked to build.

A former redevelopment coordinator for the city of Brooksville, Brijbag also stepped down as a board member of the Hernando Fine Arts Council. He'd served on the board for nearly eight years, two as chairman.

Brijbag's arraignment is set for May 10 in front of Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr., with a pretrial hearing scheduled for June. The offense is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison or a maximum $10,000 fine.

Brijbag won't be commenting to reporters, at least for now, Hyslop said.

"All things considered, he still has a positive outlook and has confidence in our legal system and knows that the truth will come out, and his life will hopefully return to normal," Hyslop said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

Lawyer for youth pastor says sex charge is unbelievable 04/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 8:10pm]
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