Janesville61.4°

Charges against Fultz dismissed

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Kevin Hoffman
December 6, 2011
— Charges against a former Walworth County pastor accused of not reporting child sex abuse were dismissed Monday, but the district attorney says he will submit a more detailed criminal complaint this week.

Judge Robert Kennedy agreed the initial complaint against Joseph Fultz, 47, of Milton, failed to prove all elements needed to move the case forward. Kennedy granted defense attorney Steven Harvey's motion to dismiss the charges based on the complaint's insufficiencies, but state statues allow District Attorney Phillip Koss 72 hours to refile an amended complaint.


Koss said he plans to do so, and a status hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.


Fultz faces five misdemeanor charges of failing to report child abuse. Police said he neglected to share with authorities his knowledge of a group of boys who were fondling and performing sex acts on one another, according to the complaint.


The alleged crimes occurred between 2009 and 2011, when Fultz was a pastor at Grace Evangelical Free Church in Walworth. The complaint references six boys ages 5 to 12, who police say developed a club where they performed sex acts at the church, Abbey Resort in Fontana and Faith Christian School in Williams Bay.


Fultz acknowledged to police in April he knew about the incidents, according to the complaint. The mother of a Faith Christian boy said Fultz spoke with the children about the incidents and told them not to tell anyone.


The complaint indicated Fultz told the superintendent of the district church and another pastor. They agreed the incident was not reportable because of the children's ages, according to court records.


State law requires clergy to report child abuse.


Harvey submitted three motions requesting dismissal of the charges. The first twoŚmultiplicity of charges and selective prosecutionŚwere denied in October. The third claimed the criminal complaint didn't establish probable cause, and Kennedy agreed the report didn't prove Fultz ever saw the children in his capacity as a pastor.


Fultz met with parents of at least one child and various administrators about the incident, according to the complaint. However, it never suggests he met with the children themselves, Kennedy said.


"It seems to me that Fultz probably should have, in line with making sure these matters stopped, let the police or the department of social services know (about the abuse)," Kennedy said. "But I don't think he had to because he didn't see those children in a professional capacity."


Koss plans to amend the complaint within the 72-hour window to meet the elements showing Fultz had a duty to report the abuse. If no complaint is filed, the charges will be dismissed.


Kennedy continued Fultz's bond until a final ruling is made.



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