Jurors took just 3 1/2 hours Tuesday to find Jeffery London, a church youth pastor, charter school disciplinarian and unofficial foster parent, guilty of a federal sex abuse charge.
London, 51, showed no visible reaction to the verdict. He faces 10 years to life in federal prison when he's sentenced in August for using a cellphone to lure an underage boy into sexual activity.
The victim seemed overwhelmed by emotion and relief and put his head to his knees when the guilty verdict was announced in federal court in Fort Lauderdale. Later, he hugged prosecutors Francis Viamontes and Jodi Anton and the FBI agents who handled the case.
Now 20, the victim declined to comment on the verdict. He testified that London began sexually abusing him when he was just 7 years old and the assaults went on until he was 16.
London served as youth pastor at the Bible Church of God in Fort Lauderdale and was dean of students at Eagle Academy charter school in Lauderdale Lakes, where his duties included disciplining students.
In closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutors said London used his authority and prestige in the community to sexually abuse underage boys over many years.
"Under the guise of providing a safe haven for these boys, this defendant, Jeffery London, preyed on these innocent victims," Viamontes told jurors in her closing argument.
The young boys were particularly vulnerable, she said, because many of them had nowhere else to live and were dependent on London for a home and basic requirements such as food and clothes.
Federal prosecutors filed the case against him after a jury found him not guilty of 27 related child sex abuse charges in state court last year. Jurors in the federal case, who said they did not want to discuss their decision as they left the courthouse, were not told about those acquittals.
Legal experts said the federal charge was easier to prove than the state case because prosecutors just had to prove that London used his cellphone to send texts to persuade the underage victim into sexual conduct.
London's defense hit back hard in its final words to jurors, saying the victim and two other young men who testified that London sexually abused them concocted a story so they could file a civil lawsuit against the estate of London's wealthy benefactor.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Daryl Wilcox told jurors that London denies he sent the inappropriate text messages but also hinted that — if it did happen — the texting and any possible sexual contact was willing conduct on the part of the boys.
The defense accused prosecutors of presenting testimony from the three boys who said they were sexually abused to get the jury riled up.
"That's not this trial, we're not here to decide if Mr. London committed the crime of sexual abuse of a minor. We're here to determine if he sent text messages to [the alleged victim]," Wilcox said.
London, who testified in his trial in Broward Circuit Court last year, decided Tuesday not to take the stand in his defense.
His younger brother, Fort Lauderdale Police Major Victor London, was the final witness called to testify in the case — for the defense.
Major London, a 20-year police veteran who recently served as a senior sex crimes investigator, told jurors he does not believe that his brother sexually abused anyone and he saw no evidence to support the allegations.
"He was a good big brother, a nice role model," the major testified.
He said his brother mentored and served as a father figure to many needy boys for more than 30 years and allowed dozens of them to live in his home over a period of more than 10 years.
"If I had thought for one second that [he was abusing children] … I would be here on your behalf, testifying on your side," Major London said, under cross-examination by the prosecution.
But the police supervisor acknowledged, as did several former students who testified as character witnesses for London, that he rarely or never visited the Coral Springs and Lauderdale Lakes homes where London lived.
"So you have no idea what your brother did at night when you're not there?" the prosecutor asked him.
"That's a true statement," Major London replied.
The victim and two other young men testified in the four-day trial that Jeffery London sexually abused them after meeting them through family, church, school and youth group activities. They said he forced them into oral sex and attempted, or had, anal sex with some of them.
Investigators said he sexually abused dozens of boys, including several who lived with him in the unlicensed, unofficial foster home he called "London's hotel."
The three young men who testified that London abused them are not being identified by the Sun Sentinel because of the nature of the allegations. Some of the boys said the abuse began when they were 7- and 8-years-old and continued for years.
They testified that they each thought they were the only person London was abusing.
Some of them said they feared London because he had "an anger problem" and, because of his status in the community, they thought no one would believe them if they reported what he did to them.
Others said he played a fatherly role in their lives but used the promise of basic requirements like food, clothing and shoes — or gave them luxuries like computer games and cash — to coerce them into submitting to the sexual abuse.