Okla. Judge Refuses to Drop Child Abuse Charges Against Victory Christian Center

Two youth pastors from the Victory Christian Center megachurch in Tulsa, Okla., failed in their attempt to convince a district judge to drop the charges against them, after they were accused of failing to notify police in a timely manner of child abuse that happened on church property.

John and Charica Daugherty, the son and daughter-in-law of Victory Christian Center senior pastor Sharon Daugherty, appeared in court on Monday, where Assistant District Attorney Kali Strain explained that Special Judge Sarah Smith denied the defense's motion to dismiss the charges.

The Daughertys are among five employees charged with taking over two weeks to report the rape of a 13-year-old girl in August, which occurred inside a building owned by the church. The youth pastors have defended themselves by saying that they reported the crime to Human Services, and are not responsible for the fact that police did not get the details until two weeks later.

The District Court has insisted, however, that state laws are clear and that the pastors knew they should have acted sooner, but didn't. This means that they are due back in court on Dec. 12, along with the three other church employees who also failed to report the crime on time. Tulsa World reports that the other defendants in the case include Victory Christian Center staff members Paul Howard Willemstein, the associate youth pastor; Anna Alisa George, the high school outreach program director; and Harold Frank Sullivan, the former human resources director.

Jason Robertson, the Daughertys' attorney, told the San Francisco Chronicle that although they hoped Judge Smith would have consider granting the dismissal, her decision is not entirely surprising.

"Motions to dismiss are rarely granted in a criminal case," Robertson said.

Twenty-year-old Chris Denman, the former employee who committed the rape, has already pleaded guilty and faces the possibility of life in prison when he is sentenced in December. A second former employee, 23-year-old Israel Castillo, has pleaded not guilty to making a lewd proposal to a 15-year-old girl and using a computer in an alleged sex crime, but faces a Nov. 29 hearing.

The scandal has rocked the 17,000-member church, with the 13-year-old girl's mother suing the church for at least $75,000, accusing employees of being more concerned about the reputation of Victory Christian Center than for the well-being of her daughter.

The church has denied the allegations, however, and has provided a detailed account of all of the events that transpired to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Senior Pastor Sharon Daugherty has also directly addressed the controversy by telling her congregation: "I want to personally say, that if anybody here is aware of any child being neglected or abused, physically or sexually, that you should please inform the authorities immediately."

"Our children are precious, and we owe them our full protection," Daugherty added.

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