No Verdict Yet from Jury in Abuse Case against Norwich Ex-Pastor
By Greg Smith
December 15, 2006
New London -- Former Norwich pastor Charles Johnson Jr. awaits a jury's decision on claims he sexual molested a young girl.
A six-member jury failed to reach a verdict Thursday and will continue deliberations today in New London Superior Court.
Johnson, 53, of Norwich is accused of inappropriately touching the girl at his home when she was 9 or 10. At the time, he was pastor at Norwich Assembly of God.
"The state is asking you to make a decision based solely on the credibility of one person -- a child," said defense attorney Peter Bartinik Jr. Thursday in closing arguments.
With no physical evidence, prosecution is relying heavily on testimony from the alleged victim, members of her family and investigators.
Assistant State's Attorney Theresa Anne Ferryman asked the jury to consider why the now 15-year-old girl would put herself through the questioning and trial if it were not true.
"What could her motive be, other than real, genuine pain," Ferryman said.
Bartinik called into question what he called inconsistencies in testimony by the alleged victim.
The incidents allegedly occurred in an upstairs hallway while the alleged victim was playing a hide-and-go-seek game with other children. Bartinik asked why Johnson, since the alleged victim's family was close to Johnson's family and had twice lived together, would choose a time with so many others around.
He questioned why the alleged victim's mother would discard a journal in which the alleged victim detailed the molestation. The mother also never went to police when she found out, he said.
Police learned of the allegations in 2005, when the girl revealed her claims to a teacher at her high school.
In courtroom testimony, the girl claims Johnson held her down despite her kicking and cries to stop. She never claimed Johnson held her down in statements to police.
"She may have truly thought it happened ... she may have lied. We'll never truly know," Bartinik said.
Johnson stepped down as pastor of the church after 22 years in 2002, after an internal investigation and counseling by the church. Two church members, including the alleged victim's mother, made claims of inappropriate behavior by Johnson with women at the church.
Johnson told police he "didn't recall any inappropriate behavior," and denied sexual contact with the alleged victim. Ferryman asked why Johnson's response was not simple shock at the allegations.
Reach Greg Smith at 425-4219 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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