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Man pleads guilty in attack on pastor

A Springfield man pleaded guilty to felonious assault Thursday morning, admitting in court he caused serious physical harm to a North Hampton pastor.

James Maxie, 28, is a self-described militant atheist with a criminal past. Maxie is accused of seriously injuring Rev. Norman Hayes, the pastor of The Bridge Community Church, 105 N. Main St., in North Hampton after Hayes delivered his sermon on Oct. 20.

In the plea deal taken by Maxie in Clark County Common Pleas Court, a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest was dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on the second-degree felony assault charge. Maxie now faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine. He will be sentenced on April 9.

Hayes suffered a broken nose, bruises and three cuts that required stitches across his face. Maxie allegedly attacked the pastor after Hayes asked Maxie’s girlfriend if she felt safe around him. At the time of the attack, Hayes said he feared for his life.

The brutality of the beating and the location are why he was charged with a felony, police have said.

The beating shocked many in the village.

“If you can’t feel safe in church, where can you?” said Ronald Simmons, who was getting his hair cut at Ayres Barber Shop in North Hampton on Thursday afternoon. “You expect the people there to come there to worship and have fellowship with each other, and then to have someone just come in an assault the pastor himself is a pretty terrible thing.”

In a statement Maxie wrote to police the day after the violent attack, he said he was “trying to regain my faith in God,” and went to hear Hayes’ sermon. He said he “asked questions about science and faith,” and claimed the statements offended Hayes.

“That’s when I made the worst mistake ever,” Maxie wrote about the attack in the statement.

Maxie previously served two years in prison after being convicted of felonious assault. He’s also a convicted sex offender, charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor in Clark County, and was sentenced to five years of probation on those charges, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. In 2004, Maxie was charged with four counts of cruelty to animals in Springfield.

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