Jeremy Iverson was already in tears before the bailiff handcuffed his older brother Jeffrey, who had just pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two children.

Crying uncontrollably after the hearing Thursday, Jeremy Iverson approached one of the mothers outside the courtroom.

"I'm so, so sorry," he said. "I hope you are OK. There was no way to know."

His brother had also admitted in court that he had assaulted two other children, in what prosecutors called a classic case of "grooming."

Jeffrey Iverson Jr., 31, gained his victims' trust and exploited weaknesses in their relationships with their parents, prosecutors said, noting that he had dated or had a friendship with all the boys' mothers.

One of Iverson's victims came forward in March, setting off a chain of events that eventually led to Iverson being charged with assaulting four boys between the ages of 10 and 13. That victim said Iverson sometimes abused him while taking him for helicopter rides, according to court documents.

The mother of one of the other boys said he wouldn't have come forward if someone else hadn't spoken up.

"My son said he would have taken what happened to him to his grave," said the mother, who asked not to be identified. "Even after the abuse ended, they still hung out together."

The woman said she considered Iverson her best friend for more than eight years. She had attended church with him four days before she learned he had molested her son, now 20.

The son attended the hearing and intends to give a victim impact statement when Iverson is sentenced Dec. 17. Iverson faces a sentence of up to 15 years.

Paul Young, head of the violent crime unit of the Anoka County attorney's office, said the guilty plea was a good result because the families get some quick closure. The plea agreement also means the victims won't have to testify in their own case or the cases of the others, he said.

"It's not a perfect result," Young said. "No trial is going to change what happened. But the victims got to see Iverson in cuffs and he admitted guilt in the cases he didn't plead guilty."

Iverson, of Cambridge, bought some of the boys presents and acted as a big brother, according to court documents. He was a baby sitter for at least two of the victims, and part of his alleged grooming involved pushing sexual boundaries with them, authorities said.

To help gain the mothers' trust, he started a business that was advertised as a Christian-based service provider for abused children that "gives a safe location to do childhood activities," authorities said.

According to the documents, Iverson molested a 13-year-old boy more than 100 times beginning in 2003. The boy's mother learned that Iverson had been charged with abusing a 10-year-old boy.

Iverson wanted a plea agreement because he wanted to take responsibility for what he did and try and make it better, said one of the victim's mothers, who didn't want to be identified.

"What he did was unforgivable in a lot of people's eyes," she said. "If you don't forgive, God won't forgive you. But can you be satisfied with any sentence he receives?"

Her son, now 15, doesn't talk about the abuse, she said. Iverson was his best friend and "I was madly in love with him," she said. When Iverson sat in the courtroom gallery in front of her before the hearing began, she started to cry.

After the hearing, Iverson's mother approached the mother of the 20-year-old, offering a hug, and was also introduced to her son. The victim's mother said that meant a lot to her family.

Iverson's mother and father both declined to comment through their attorney, Joseph Tamburino. She cried during the hearing when Tamburino questioned Iverson about the sexual abuse and a mental breakdown earlier this year.

Before he left, Jeremy Iverson again apologized to two of the mothers for his brother's actions.

"I can't imagine what you are going through, but my brother is a good person," he said. "God bless you."

David Chanen • 612-673-4465