6-year-old Testifies in Pastor's Abuse Trial

By Russ Zimmer
Newark Advocate
March 2, 2009

NEWARK — He was talkative, friendly and well dressed in a three-piece suit. The 6-year-old boy with the ever-present smile behaved more like he was at a family gathering Monday than testifying he was the victim in a child-abuse trial.

The accused is Michael Lee, a 51-year-old Pataskala minister who has denied ever inappropriately touching the child. He is charged with one count of gross sexual imposition, a third-degree felony with a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison.

The child took the stand and was personable and compliant — although often forgetting to answer with words rather than exaggerated nodding or shaking of his head — while talking about two instances in which he said Lee, last known address 23 S. 36th St., Newark, made sexual contact with him.

“I told him not to and he just did it,” the boy said during questioning by Licking County Assistant Prosecutor Tracy Van Winkle.

However, he contradicted some of his documented story by denying he told relatives who themselves told investigators of statements from the child.

He even repeatedly said he had not seen or spoken to defense attorney Kristin Burkett or been in Common Pleas Judge Jon Spahr’s courtroom before despite it being the site of victim competency hearing last week during which Burkett posed questions.

Burkett and co-defense counsel Erin McEnaney talked about disagreements between the parties involved and alluded to a potential custody struggle over the child as peripheral issues.

A Newark police detective, a Licking Memorial Hospital nurse practitioner, the child’s mother and the defendant’s wife and son all testified Monday. The defense is expected to wrap up and send the case to the jury Tuesday.

It is not known whether Lee, the pastor at First Apostolic Church, will take the stand in his own defense. According to Newark police Detective Robert Huffman’s report, Lee failed a voluntary lie-detector test during the course of the investigation.

Russ Zimmer can be reached at (740) 328-8548 or


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