Two youth ministers of a megachurch in Tulsa, Okla., have asked a court to dismiss misdemeanor charges against them for delaying the reporting of the rape of a 13-year-old girl, stating the incident did not involve the type of child abuse mentioned in state law.
John Daugherty and his wife Charica Daugherty, youth ministers at the Victory Christian Center church, have filed a motion in Tulsa County District Court, stating that state law defines child abuse as an act committed "by a person responsible for the child's health safety or welfare," The Associated Press reports.
The Daughertys and three other church employees were charged last month for waiting for two weeks to report child abuse.
A former church employee, Chris Denman, was charged with six counts of sex crimes against children, including the rape of the 13-year-old girl in a stairwell on the campus. The charges also involve two other underage girls. Another former church employee, Israel Shalom Castillo, was charged for making a lewd proposal to a child and using a computer to commit a sex crime.
The motion, filed last Friday, says that 20-year-old Denman was not a church employee at the time of the Aug. 13 incident, was not responsible for the girl, and therefore cannot be charged with child abuse under state law, which "applies to a very specific event, abuse by a person responsible for the child's health, safety, or welfare." It adds that 23-year-old Castillo was also not responsible for health, safety or welfare of children at the church.
John Daugherty is the son of Senior Pastor Sharon Daugherty.
Denman is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 22. He waived a preliminary hearing last Thursday. Both Denman and Castillo had been employed as janitors at the church with about 17,000 members.
The 13-year-old victim first reported the rape on Aug. 16 during an evening service.
Pastor Daugherty, who was not charged, earlier said she learned about the abuse claims and did not personally report it because her staff members were supposed to handle it. "I was briefly told of an incident involving two ... employees and members of 24/7 (a youth group) ... and was told it was being reported but did not receive any details on the specific allegations." She added she was "extremely disappointed to later hear of the delay in the time it was first reported."
In her lawsuit, the 13-year-old's mother accused the church of negligence and causing emotional distress by waiting two weeks to report the allegations to police. "Rather than contacting the appropriate authorities, defendant chose to conduct its own 'investigation' with the ultimate purpose of doing damage control as opposed to protecting" the victim, she said in the lawsuit, which seeks more than $75,000.
The lawsuit also claimed that a church employee lied to the victim's mother that the police had been contacted. It also said the mother gave the first report of her daughter's rape to police.