The woman who as a teenager became pregnant with her Alabama youth pastor’s child and claimed she was forced to marry him under pressure from her family said she was violated again when prosecutors and the pastor reached a plea deal in her rape case that includes no jail time.
Ash Pereira, 30, said she was 14 when Jason Greathouse, then a 24-year-old pastor at Heritage United Methodist Church in Enterprise, moved in with her family as the pastor was experiencing financial hardship.
At 15, Pereira was pregnant with Greathouse’s child and gave birth to a daughter, Olivia.
Pereira was forced to marry Greathouse, she said, and only pursued rape charges against him last year because she got bad advice from a lawyer, her mother and Greathouse, who all told her years ago that she couldn’t press charges because she had been married to the pastor.
The Coffee County District Attorney’s Office charged Greathouse, who now works in information technology in Tennessee, with second-degree rape and contributing to the delinquency of a child.
On Oct. 15, Coffee County prosecutors and Greathouse reached a plea deal striking the rape charge and having Greathouse plead guilty to the contributing to the delinquency of a child charge.
Under the agreement, Greathouse also did not have to register as a sex offender.
Coffee County District Attorney Tom Anderson earlier told AL.com that prosecutors agreed to the deal because Pereira and Greathouse were having “issues pertaining to custody/visitation” of their child that the ex-pastor’s lawyers contended were Pereira’s motivation for pursuing the rape charge.
Anderson said a jury may have been persuaded by the defense argument, leading to either a mistrial or not guilty verdict.
But in a phone interview with AL.com, Pereira said prosecutors “never questioned my intent, never asked what my motivation was behind this.”
Even if they did, Pereira noted, she was still under the age of consent in Alabama when her sexual relationship with Greathouse began, adding that the DA’s office told her it was an “open and shut case” because of hers and Greathouse’s ages at the time and that they had a child.
“My rights as a victim have been totally violated because he’s not been convicted of a crime,” she said, pointing out that decisions over their daughter’s medical care and education still require Greathouse’s permission. “If he is not convicted … he holds control over my life, still.”
“Why does a sex offender have educational rights over a child and the court system won’t recognize Jason as a sex offender because he was not convicted of anything?” Pereira asked.
“Why should I be at the mercy of my perpetrator?”
Pereira, an actress and businesswoman who now lives in Nashville, claimed Greathouse denied their daughter, who has autism and major depressive disorder, medical treatment by objecting to Pereira’s urging that their daughter go to a residential treatment center.
Pereira said she also has no say in what school her daughter can attend and couldn’t enroll her in extracurricular activities.
“He denied me things I wanted for the betterment of our child,” she said.
Greathouse’s attorney, David Harrison, said Pereira’s claims are “absolutely not true” and that Greathouse had custody of their daughter.
The lawyer claimed Pereira threatened to pursue the rape charges after filing three custody claims in Tennessee,
“She sent him a text and said, ‘If you don’t give me custody, I’m going to have you charged with a sex offense in Alabama,” Harrison said. “This person used the court system here to try to, in my opinion, coerce mentally, emotionally, somebody to give up custody of his child.”
Harrison said that while he was confident a jury would have sided with the defense had the case went to trial, he could not take the chance of his client facing between two and 20 years in prison.
“I think this is a case where justice was served,” he said. “What resonated for me was the system worked for both sides.”
But Pereira said she did not get justice.
“I really feel that he should be on a sex offender list,” she said of her ex-husband, both as a punishment for what occurred 15 years ago and to protect young girls who may come in contact with Greathouse.
Besides telling her story, Pereira also started a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $20,000 for an upcoming legal battle.
“We got a long fight. I’m going to have a trial over educational rights next year, and I really hope I can bring a good fight because I shouldn’t have to fight for what I’m having to do in the first place,” she said.
Pereira is also working with the organization Unchained at Last, which is pushing to extend the legal marriage age to 18 across the country.
“So many girls that go through this don’t even get their case to court at all because of these forced marriages,” she said.