Former pastor Fultz cleared in sexual assault reporting case

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staff, Gazette
Thursday, May 2, 2013

— A Walworth County jury has found a former pastor not guilty of failing to report sexual assaults between young boys, clearing the Milton man of the final charges he faced.

Joseph Fultz resigned his position as pastor of the Grace Evangelical Free Church in Walworth when he was charged with five misdemeanor counts of not reporting child abuse in June 2011.

Judges dismissed charges against Fultz on two occasions, and a jury delivered not guilty verdicts April 25 on the two remaining charges.

Fultz did not tell police about a group of six young boys who had formed a club in which they performed sex acts on one another between 2009 and 2011, according to court documents.

Prosecutors argued Fultz was bound by "mandatory reporter" laws to disclose his knowledge of the club to police.

The assaults occurred at the Faith Christian School in Williams Bay, the Abbey Resort in Fontana and the Grace Evangelical Free Church in Walworth, according to court documents.

They involved children between 5 and 12 years old, authorities said.

Although Fultz discussed the assaults with administrators at the school and sought to make sure they would not happen again, prosecutors said he was required to report what he knew to authorities.

Multiple attempts to reach Fultz for comment Wednesday were not successful.

His attorney, Michael C. Witt, did not return messages left at his office.

Judge Robert Kennedy dismissed the charges six months after prosecutors first filed them in 2011.

Prosecutors then filed the charges again in January 2012, court records show.

Judge David Reddy dismissed three of those charges in March 2012, and the case went to trial last week, ending with the not guilty verdicts.

One issue in the case was an exception to the mandatory reporter law that applies to some conversations with clergy, which Assistant District Attorney Haley Rea said might have influenced the jury.

Rea said in an email she hopes the case leads officials to clarify those rules.

"We would prefer to see them report and see children get help (than) to see mandatory reporters in court," she said.

Last updated: 10:41 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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