Alleged Victim's Mom: Pastor Touched Me
By Greg Smith
February 24, 2006
NORWICH -- The mother of a young girl alleging molestation at the hands of a longtime Norwich pastor cried during her daughter's interview with Norwich police in November.
Visibly shaken, the woman revealed her own complaints of inappropriate touching by former Norwich Assembly of God pastor Charles Johnson Jr., police documents released Thursday reveal.
The church at the time had dealt internally with those accusations -- quietly convincing Johnson to resign in 2002, after 22 years at the church.
Johnson, who now works at Electric Boat, was charged this week with two counts of risk of injury to a minor and first-degree sexual assault for two alleged incidents involving the girl, who was 11 or 12 at the time.
The charges also have led to the state removing Johnson's three foster children from his care, police said Thursday.
Johnson has denied any sexual contact with the girl, saying only "he has wrestled and tickled the victim in the past." He has admitted touching the victim's mother inappropriately, but he told police "he was just an affectionate person."
Despite the severity of the charges, there has been an outpouring of support from longtime members of the church, who find the newest allegations hard to believe.
"I hate to see him convicted in the papers before he goes to court," said Bonnie Nicholson, 61, of Norwich. "This is a man I know and love. I don't think this man is capable of doing the things he's accused of."
Johnson, pastor of the church from 1979 to 2002, was the subject of an internal investigation by the church's leadership in 2001, when accusations of inappropriate conduct with an adult church member first surfaced.
He was suspended as pastor and sent to Kentucky for 30 days of inpatient treatment for what Johnson described to police as "life-controlling behaviors." Later he was sent to Akron, Ohio, for two weeks of additional evaluation.
Former church member Terri Warner of Canterbury, said the congregation knew about the accusations and it had caused some division among members.
"Maybe trying to protect the man, and the church and its name, they did more harm than good," she said. "The leadership at the time should have addressed the concerns."
Warner was among others who said "knowing how well Johnson interacted with the children ... this is unbelievable."
Johnson's wife, Cynthia, told investigators she warned her husband that his behavior -- patting women on the buttocks and giving hugs from behind -- could get him into trouble. But, she said his behavior was not inappropriate, "but overly friendly at times."
Johnson was arrested after a three-month-long investigation that began when the Department of Children and Families received a call from a 14-year-old girl's school principal. The girl had become uncomfortable after reading a book in which a girl was raped. She confided to a teacher that Johnson sexually assaulted her four years prior, according to police.
Once notified, the parents of the girl said they were aware of the allegation, telling investigators their daughter had had made the claims to a camp counselor while on a church mission in Mexico. The family was living in California at the time.
On Nov. 14, Detective Patrick Mickens and DCF social worker Rachel Marado met with the victim and her mother for an interview.
The 14-year-old claims she was at Johnson's residence for a church fellowship when Johnson placed his hand under her shirt. On another occasion, the victim claims she was on a visit with other children when Johnson placed his hand on her breast and down her pants.
Johnson was released on a $150,000 bond and is expected to appear March 2 in Norwich Superior Court. He could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Reach Greg Smith at 425-4219 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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