Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Opening arguments heard in pastor sex-abuse case

Towanda, Pennsylvania - A jury was seated and opening arguments heard Monday in the case of a Milan pastor accused of sexually abusing a female parishioner, with further proceedings scheduled for today.

Church on the Hill pastor Wesley A. Nichols, 44, of Milan faces one count each of corruption of minors, a first-degree misdemeanor, and indecent assault, a second-degree misdemeanor, as well as other charges in New York.

State police say Nichols kissed and fondled a now-16-year-old female parishioner beginning three years ago. There is no allegation that Nichols used any physical force against the girl, an attorney for Nichols said in December.

Jury selection took "several hours," according to Bradford County First Assistant District Attorney Albert Ondrey, with opening statements heard following the seating of the jury. Ondrey declined to specify details of the arguments, citing the ongoing nature of the case.

The trial will continue at 8:30 a.m. today at the Bradford County Courthouse in Towanda, Ondrey said.

Two counts each of corruption of minors and indecent assault, second-degree misdemeanors, against Nichols were dropped following a pre-trial conference April 22, according to Ondrey.

In New York, Nichols is charged with sexual abuse in the third degree and endangering the welfare of a child, according to investigator Mike Meyers of the New York State Police in Owego, N.Y.

Ondrey said the filing of charges in New York prompted the dropping of the Bradford County counts, after it was determined that only one incident happened in Bradford County. Ondrey declined to comment on whether the victim in the Bradford County case and New York state case were the same individual, citing privacy laws.

According to New York state police, the crimes, which occurred in Barton within the past year, were very similar to the ones in Pennsylvania, and involved a then-14-year-old girl.

See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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