Campaigners against the mishandling of child sex abuse by Watchtower were dealt a huge blow yesterday as news emerged that all charges against alleged Witness pedophile Ronald Lawrence have been dropped.
As reported in the McAlester News-Capital, “Associate District Judge James Bland dismissed the charges based on statue of limitation arguments from Lawrence’s attorney.”
Disputes concerning the statute of limitations were raised earlier in the case, but have been shrugged off by the prosecution as non-applicable.
Prosecutor Danita Williams, of the district attorney’s office for Pittsburg County, argued that “the statute of limitations applies to the time the crime is reported to law enforcement.” But Associate District Judge James Bland has thrown out the charges on this basis regardless following argumentation from Lawrence’s attorney, Warren Gotcher.
The decision means that Lawrence can walk free despite being accused of “11 counts of lewd molestation, five counts of forcible oral sodomy, two counts of forcible sodomy and one count of rape by instrumentation of three separate children from 1977 to 1982.”
Lawrence’s alleged victims will doubtless be distraught that all of these counts have been dismissed on a technicality.
A smaller glimmer of hope remains for them, since the prosecutor’s office has announced their desire to appeal the decision.
But if the decision is upheld, not only Lawrence but also the Governing Body will be off the hook, since they were implicated in a motion by the DA as having involvement in the concealment of Lawrence’s crimes.
Kathleen Conti is a SNAP leader and campaigner for reform regarding statute of limitation rules. In response to this development she said, “This is just another prime example of why the current statute of limitation laws need to be changed. Not only did Ronald Lawrence escape justice for his horrific crimes against these victims but the entire church body especially the ‘Governing Body’ who are accused of covering up and concealing these crimes against children.”
And in SNAP’s official response to the news, Director David Clohessy said, “We are appalled that an allegedly spiritual man would seek to hide behind a technicality like this. If he wants to defend himself, let him do it on the merits, not on the technicalities.”
In SNAP’s official statement, Clohessy also bemoaned the “apparent silence of the Oklahoma Jehovah’s Witness community” throughout this scandal, as well as their lack of initiative.
“Church officials should be using their resources to aggressively seek out others who saw, suspected or suffered Lawrence’s crimes. They should be begging anyone with information or suspicions of his wrongdoing to call police and prosecutors… Instead, as best we can tell, they’re doing nothing.”
- McAlester News-Capital article
- SNAP Press Release “Jehovah Witness Predator Escapes Consequences”
- Governing Body stands accused by District Attorney in Oklahoma child abuse case
- Oklahoma police investigating whether elders failed to report serial pedophile
- JWsurvey articles on child abuse