Nathaniel Morales, who was recently convicted of sexually abusing boys he met in a Gaithersburg church decades ago, was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday.

In two trials in May, jurors found Morales guilty of a series of counts of sex abuse and sex offense. Victims gave powerful testimonies of what Morales did to them and the lasting effect it had.

“Mr. Morales you are a pathetic human being,” Judge Terrence J. McGann said as he announced the sentence.

Morales, now 56, was an active adult member of Covenant Life Church in the 1980s – singing on stage during services and helping with a teenage youth group. The youth group had Bible studies that were combined with sleepovers, some of which were attended by Morales. He fondled teenage boys for several years, according to court records, before leaving the church and eventually settling in Las Vegas.

In 2009, a victim stepped forward and spoke with police, leading to interviews with other victims and charges against Morales.

Covenant Life ministers later released a statement saying that church leaders didn’t know about the abuse back when it happened. But this May, testimony during one of the Morales’s trials indicated that three of the teen victims or their families had come to church leaders for help in the early 1990s and that the church officials did not call police.

As one of the victims said, he had relied on advice from adults many years ago.

“That was the way we were raised,” he testified. “You take these things to your pastors. So we took it to the pastors at Covenant Life Church, and we were told that it would be handled. It would be taken care of.”

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