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Man investigated by Michigan Radio sentenced to probation, will be on sex offender registry

The Servants of the Word
Jamie Treadwell in a video from The Servants of the Word.

A man who was the subject of a story Michigan Radio aired in January 2020was sentenced on Wednesday.

In May 2020, Jamie Treadwell was charged with two felony counts of criminal sexual conduct against children under the age of 13. As part of a plea deal, one charge was dropped and one was reduced to attempted criminal sexual conduct. He pleaded no contest to that charge.

The judge sentenced him to 14 days in jail with credit for 14 days already served, plus 18 months of probation. He must also register as a sexual offender.

“I understand that I will need to proceed in my life without contact with kids,” Treadwell told the judge.

In 2016, two families reported Jamie Treadwell to police for sexually assaulting their children. But no charges were filed against Treadwell, who was part of a celibate, religious brotherhood “living single for the Lord” based in Chelsea, Michigan. Treadwell denied the allegations at the time.

As an artist in Grand Rapids,Treadwell had entered into ArtPrize. He helped co-found an organization for at-risk youth in Belfast called Youth Initiatives.

An internal investigation done in 2017 by The Servants of the Word, the Christian brotherhood Treadwell belonged to, showed similar patterns and allegations against Treadwell in London, where he once lived.

In the fall of 2019, The Servants of the Word became aware of more allegations against Treadwell through an internal investigation. That fall, he broke ties with the brotherhood that he was a part of for decades.

The Michigan Radio story centered around the allegations two families reported separately to police, one involving a then 8-year old girl in East Grand Rapids and another involving a then 5-year old girl in the Lansing area. Even though police in separate jurisdictions connected the complaints, prosecutors were unaware of the other police reports.

Michigan Radio doesn’t identify alleged minor victims of sexual assault.

Since the story aired, another child came forward with more abuse allegations, also from 2016. This then 11-year old child was a student at The Potter’s House school, where Treadwell was an artist in residence from the fall of 2015 through the fall of 2016.

The child told police the incident took place on Martin Luther King Day at the school in January 2016. The Potter’s House school is a non-profit, K-12 Christian school with a long history in Grand Rapids.

The student eventually reported to a therapist Treadwell sexually assaulted her, and later told her mother and police. After this police report was filed, the Kent County prosecutor decided to bring charges against Treadwell for both the Potter’s House case and the East Grand Rapids case.

“My daughter’s heart hurts. Her mind plays that day over and over,” the student’s mother, who asked not to be identified to protect her minor daughter, told the judge Wednesday.

“Martin Luther King Day is a day to celebrate but for her it is the day that Jamie took the celebration out of it. She remembers every moment. The way he moved toward her, how he isolated her and how he molested her without hesitation,” the mother said.

The student testified during a preliminary hearing and a judge ruled there was enough evidence to bind the case over to trial.

The student’s mother says the abuse has left her child feeling worthless, having nightmares, flashbacks, self harming and staying several times in a mental hospital.

“The preliminary hearing was so horrendous that, for me, and saving her mental health even more was more important than going to trial and not knowing potentially what the outcome could be,” the mother said.

“He took so many years from my daughter and now he gets to walk free. That is hollow justice in my opinion,” she said.

Both the mother of the student at Potter’s House and the family who reported their child’s assault to East Grand Rapids Police felt Treadwell’s apology was insincere.

“He absolutely could have at any point admitted, owned, what he had done,” Crystal Barrett, the mom in the East Grand Rapids case said after the sentencing. “But he decided to do that for his own protection. It was not against the law to do it. It was simply to protect his own hide,” Barrett said.

Treadwell told the judge he wanted to speak with the parents in these cases, but his lawyers told him not to.

“My heart is broken for how this whole episode has unfolded,” Treadwell told the judge.

“My heart is broken for how I messed up a tremendous gift to fire up the imagination, hope and courage of a younger generation. I do take responsibility for my part in causing the distress that overrides all that I’ve heard and felt. I do accept responsibility for the fact that my actions caused tremendous distress and for that I am tremendously sorry.”

For the families in these two cases, and others who made similar accusations but whose cases were not charged, the sentence was expected.

“A conviction is really important. Being on the (sex offender) registry is really important…It’s going to make children safer, which was our goal, and it’s also disappointing,” Rob Barrett, the father of one of the survivors, said.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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