Ex-EWTN priest, TV host not guilty of child sexual abuse, jury says
By Greg Garrison
May 31, 2016
|David Stone, 55, formerly known as Father Frances Mary Stone, was host of the TV program "Life on the Rock" on Eternal Word Television Network. He fathered a child born in 2008. The mother was fired from EWTN and Stone was put on long-term leave of absence, according to Jefferson County court documents.|
|David Stone was found not guilty of sexual abuse of a minor child under 12. The Jefferson County Circuit Court jury reached its verdict at about 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 31, 2016.|
A Jefferson County jury today found a former EWTN priest and TV personality not guilty of child sexual abuse.
David Stone, 55, hosted a talk show for youth from 2001-2007 on EWTN. While working at EWTN he fathered a child with an EWTN employee, Christina Presnell. The child was born in 2008.
Stone had been charged with sexually abusing his son.
"I think the jury reached the correct decision," said Stone's attorney, Chip Bradford. "Hopefully he can move ahead with his life and in his relationship with his son."
Stone has not had visitation with his son for several years, Bradford said. He is now eligible for supervised visitation, based on a previous order in Jefferson County Family Court, Bradford said. His visitation rights were put on hold as a condition of his bond.
Stone, formerly known as Father Francis Mary Stone when he hosted the TV show "Life on the Rock," was suspended from his religious order and placed on long-term leave of absence at EWTN after it became known he had fathered the child. Presnell was fired from EWTN.
After the child spent a weekend visitation with Stone in 2012, the child complained to his mother that his father hurt him. The mother then refused to allow the next scheduled visitation.
Two therapists testified last week that their interviews with the child revealed possible sexual abuse.
Stone was arrested in 2013 and charged with sexual abuse of a minor under 12. The son is now 8, and testified in court last week. One of the boy's older half-brothers also testified that Stone had improperly touched him, trying to unbuckle his pants. Stone testified and his attorneys argued that those were false allegations and are being used to gain advantage in a custody dispute between Stone and Presnell.
If he had been found guilty of the Class B felony, Stone could have faced two to 20 years in prison without parole. "We didn't take it lightly," one of the jurors said outside the courthouse after the verdict.
The jury began its deliberations after closing arguments on Friday, May 27. After taking Memorial Day weekend off, they resumed deliberations on Tuesday morning and reached the verdict at about 5:30 p.m.