Jury convicts Manchester minister of sexually assaulting boy

Journal Inquirer [Manchester CT]

September 27, 2022

By Alex Wood

A Hartford Superior Court jury on Tuesday convicted minister Robert Lee Nichols of touching a 10- or 11-year-old boy in sexual ways during a 10-day visit to Nichols’ family’s Manchester home in the summer of 2009 or 2010.

The year of the visit was disputed, but the real issue was whether the sexual touching happened. The boy testified Monday morning that it did, and Nichols, 43, flatly denied that in testimony later that day. Nichols’ wife, Tamara, subsequently took the witness stand and corroborated important parts of his testimony.

The six-member jury convicted Nichols of two felonies, risk of injury to a child and fourth-degree sexual assault. He faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 25 years when Judge Michael Gustafson sentences him Nov. 29.

The judge raised Nichols’ bond to $500,000 after the verdict. Online court records showed Wednesday that he had posted the bond and been released.

Still pending against Nichols is a case in which he is charged with first-degree assault and other crimes based on allegations that he tortured a 10-month-old baby over a 10-day period in 2013. Nichols, who has served as minister of the small World of Faith Ministries in Manchester, was arrested in that case in August 2018.

He was arrested in the sexual-assault case almost two years later, in May 2020.

Nichols met the boy at an after-school program he ran at the M.D. Fox Elementary School in Hartford.

Nichols testified that he and his wife got to know the boy’s family and learned that his mother “had her hands full as a single mom.”

He said they agreed to have the boy stay at their home for 10 days to give his mother a break and give the boy “an opportunity to do some fun things” Nichols had done with his father as a boy.

He said they played video games, played basketball on outdoor courts at the Robertson School, and, the weekend before the boy went home, went fishing. Defense lawyer Michael S. Taylor played a cellphone video of the boy exulting after catching a large fish from a small boat on what appeared to be a lake.

The boy testified that, early in the visit, he took an evening shower, prosecutor Michael Riley told the jury in his final argument Tuesday. The boy said Nichols was there when he came out of the shower and beat him, according to the prosecutor.

Afterward, the boy said, they went to Nichols’ bed, and, on the second night they slept together, Nichols began to touch him sexually, according to the prosecutor.

Nichols told a very different story. He said the boy didn’t know how to take a shower and his mother asked if Nichols could show him how — a claim she denied in later testimony.

Nichols said the boy felt as if he was drowning when water went in his face. He said he told the boy not to get the water in his face, just to let it run on his body and to wash his face.

He and his wife, Tamara both testified that the boy never slept with them — and his wife added that she and her husband slept together on every night of the visit.

In his final argument, Riley mentioned the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and warned to beware of the person in the village who appears “when you are weak and struggling and comes up with a solution that gives him unfettered access to your child.”