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Benton County rehab center reverend charged with sexual assault

A reverend for Wings of Peace NWA, a faith-based rehab facility in Benton County, has been charged with sexually assaulting one of the men in the program.

BENTON COUNTY, Ark. — A reverend for Wings of Peace NWA, a faith-based rehab facility in Benton County, has been charged with sexually assaulting one of the men who had been a part of the program.

53-year-old Thomas Hartman was arrested after an investigation found that he'd allegedly taken advantage of one of the members of the program using his position as a reverend within the facility. The victim reportedly felt "trapped" because Hartman had financial authority over him.

The person told Benton County detectives that he'd met Hartman 4 or 5 years ago and since then the two had a "father-son" relationship. Hartman had recently gifted him an iPhone 14 Pro and a Jeep.

The man, who is in his early twenties, told detectives that he didn't know how many times he told Hartman he "wasn't his boyfriend," but that Hartman would play "mind games" because he knew the man didn't have anywhere else to go.

According to the affidavit, the man told police that a couple of times Hartman went into his room and sexually assaulted him. He said Hartman did it because he "knew nobody else cared about him."

He told detectives that even though he had a Jeep, he couldn't leave because Hartman would call his bondsman to have his bond revoked because he was required to live at the Hartman residence. Hartman had also told police that he'd promised the man that once he got back on his feet, he'd sign the title of the Jeep over to him— assuming that the vehicle was still in Hartman's name.

When speaking on the sexual relationship, the affidavit says Hartman told detectives that it was a "slip up" and that was trying to avoid living "that gay lifestyle," in an effort to devote his life to the ministry. 

Hartman told the detectives that the man was living in his house and not in the residence on the property where all the other men in the rehabilitation program lived. 

Hartman said that the man had "fallen off the wagon" by drinking and using drugs over the past year and told police he'd told him to "stop doing those things and turn back to God."

Hartman said he thought the interactions were consensual because "young men have sexual relationships with older men all the time." 

Hartman's wife allegedly provided a certificate to authorities that listed Hartman as a reverend member of the Revival Ministries International Ministerial Association.

Hartman was convicted on May 18, 1998, in Wisconsin for second-degree sexual assault of a child and released on parole in 2003. Hartman is a registered level 3 sex offender in Benton County.

On the Wings of Peace NWA Facebook Page, it lists the program as a "faith-based sober/transitional living facility to meet the rising need to restore men who are emotionally broken and spiritually lost and who are seeking to change the direction of their life," the detective noted in the arrest affidavit.

Hartman was charged with 3rd-degree sexual assault. 

According to the Arkansas Criminal Statute, a person commits this crime if they sexually assault "a member of the clergy and is in a position of trust or authority over the victim and uses the position of trust or authority to engage in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual activity."

The Benton County Sheriff's Office also found drugs and guns on the property, charging Hartman and five others with possession and/or parole violations.

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