‘Peeping preacher’ found guilty

Sammy Nuckolls, a former traveling evangelist found guilty of 13 counts of secretly videotaping women inside the bathroom of his Mississippi home, was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison.

By Bob Allen

A Mississippi judge found a former pastor at a popular Southern Baptist youth camp guilty on 13 counts of video voyeurism and sentenced him to 10 years in prison Sept. 14. In addition, DeSoto County circuit judge Gerald Chatham ordered  former evangelist Sammy Nuckolls to pay more than $80,000 in fines and restitution for victims, including counseling for women secretly filmed while using a bathroom in his home in Olive Branch, Miss.

Two of 11 prosecution witnesses in a sentencing hearing said they first met Nuckolls, whom they considered a close friend, when he was camp pastor at Centrifuge camps sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources. Defense witnesses included two men who said since his arrest Nuckolls has been tarking part in a Celebration Recovery 12-step program at a Southern Baptist church in northern Mississippi.

Amy Butler, a student at Baylor University’ Truett Theological Seminary, said being victimized by Nuckolls has caused her to have second thoughts about going into ministry. “Before this I thought I would be a pastor of some kind,” she said. “I would help people.”

Since Nuckolls’ arrest last October, she said, “I can’t look at people and trust them anymore."

Eric Garner, a Celebrate Recovery ministry leader at NorthStar Church in Saltillo, Miss., said Nuckolls has shown remorse for his actions since entering the program in June. Of Nuckolls actions, he said, "It's proven to me how Satan can enter your life and bring you to your knees and get you do do things you otherwise wouldn't do."

Nuckolls entered guilty pleas in two other cases where he allegedly videotaped women with concealed cameras in the bathrooms of their homes, but had so far escaped a prison sentence. Judge Chatham said the previous convictions and fact that the offenses occurred over a long period of time make him a threat to society.

"The highest calling to me a man can achieve in this world is a minister of the gospel," Chatham said. "You have fallen from that calling. To whom much is given much is required. You have been given much and you have abused it."