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Aaron’s first hearing could be next week

The former pastor accused of sexually molesting and torturing young boys while on camping trips is expected to get his first sit-down with both sides of the legal fence sometime in the coming days.

Ralph Lee Aaron, 54, was charged earlier this week with 152 counts of sex-related crimes including the production and possession of child pornography, sexual abuse and torture and sodomy. He is currently in the county jail under a $24.5 million bond.

District attorney Greg Gambril said Thursday Aaron has requested a preliminary hearing and been given counsel in the form of a court-appointed attorney, Al Smith of Elba.

“The way the court proceeds now is that they appoint an attorney, which has been done,” Gambril said. “Prior to that hearing, the court sets a time for what we call a settlement conference, which gives the parties involved an opportunity to sit down and see if resolution can be made in the case. If not, then it goes to the preliminary hearing if Mr. Aaron chooses.”

Gambril said that settlement conference is expected sometime next week.

“I have heard it might be Friday, but I don’t know a specific time or day,” he said.

Gambril said between now and that conference date, there will be a meeting between the victims’ families and his office.

“Before any discussions begin with the defense, myself and (a representative from the) Sheriff’s Office will sit with the victims’ families and make sure everyone is in agreement on how we want this case disposed of,” he said. “I can promise you the state maintains we will be seeking a maximum of life imprisonment in this case. I don’t expect anything to change that.”

Under Alabama law, all convictions of a “Class A” felony carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Of the 152 total charges Aaron faces, 44 are “Class A” felonies.