Victory Christian Staff Members Plead No Contest To Failing To Report Teen Rape
TULSA, Oklahoma - John and Charica Daugherty pleaded no contest on Friday to failing to promptly report child sex abuse.
The couple, who worked at Victory Christian as senior high youth pastors, held hands while entering their plea in Tulsa County District Court. A no contest plea is not admission of guilt, but does acknowledge that all the evidence is true.
The judge said it concerned him greatly the upper management of the church didn't have more hands-on dealings with the reporting process, and said if it was up to him, he'd throw them in jail. But he said the evidence showed they had the least amount of direct dealings with the victims and suspects, so he gave them the option of 30 days in the county jail or a five-year deferred sentence.
John and Charica Daugherty are expecting a child, so it's no surprise they said no to jail and yes to the judge's rules of probation.
The judge ordered the Daughertys to create written policy on reporting future abuse immediately and share that plan with at least 20 other churches or organizations that are in charge of children.
Assistant District Attorney Sarah McAmis argued, as leaders of the Victory Christian organization, the couple should get at least the same punishment, or more, as the lower ranking employees, because ultimately the buck stops with them.
"As you go up in the chain of command, the responsibility does not decrease, it increases," said Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris. "Organizations have to realize, yes, it's an individual reporting statue, but if you hear about incidents and somebody says, 'I'll take care of it,' you have a burden to make sure it was taken care of, and it wasn't."
The Daughertys' attorney said they were the only ones in this case who didn't have firsthand knowledge of what had happened, and he wanted them judged on what they actually knew, and not what others knew or did.
"There was a period of time they didn't know anything, then a shorter period of time they still didn't know everything," said defense attorney Jason Robertson. "If they had to do it over again, I think John and Charica would agree, yes, the buck stops here, but give us the information, so we can make that decision."
The investigation into child sex crimes began when police said a 13-year-old girl reported to Victory employees that she was raped by a man who also worked at Victory. They said those employees, including the Daughertys, waited two weeks before notifying the girl's parents or police.
The Daughertys were suspended from their jobs in September 2012, but were reinstated with additional supervision in October.
Prosecutors argued the Daughertys have not expressed remorse, have not taken responsibility, but have blamed everyone else, from their employees to the police to the DA's Office, and said a true person of character would admit they made a mistake and say they're sorry.
The Daughertys issued this statement:
"We respect the judge's sentence and we look forward to helping other churches and organizations learn how to best protect their children and promptly report child abuse. We hope these actions will help in the healing process of all who were affected."
Last week, Paul Willemstein, Anna George and Harold Sullivan each waived their right to a jury trial and pleaded no contest to charges of failure to report the rape in a timely manner.
Paul Willemstein, and Anna George were sentenced to 30 days in jail. Harold Sullivan was given a one-year suspended sentence with no jail time.
Former Victory employee Chris Denman was sentenced in December to 55 years in prison for raping the 13-year-old girl last year and other sex crimes.
Denman's arrest led to an investigation into the ministry's handling of the allegations.
A second ex-employee, Israel Castillo, is facing an August trial on a felony charge of making a lewd proposal to a child.
A deferred sentence means if the Daughertys don't get in trouble with the law in the next five years, the conviction could be removed from their record. However, if they do get arrested again, the judge could send them to jail, and he warned them Friday that it wouldn't be for a short time.
Since they have no previous criminal history, no one expects that to happen.