January 08, 2005

Charges dropped against pastor

Daily Press

By the Associated Press

Published January 7, 2005

RICHMOND, Va. -- Prosecutors have dropped five sexual misconduct charges against a minister accused of an improper relationship with his 16-year-old goddaughter.

The Rev. Joseph F. Ellison Jr. was scheduled for trial Thursday in Henrico County Circuit Court on one count of sexual battery and four counts of taking indecent liberties. But the charges were dropped "following consultation with the complaining witness and considering what's in her best interest," special prosecutor Duncan Minton said. Minton declined to elaborate.

Ellison, an eastern Henrico clergyman and community leader, has maintained his innocence since the charges were filed in December 2003. The girl alleged that the misconduct happened over four years.

"I didn't really know what to expect," Ellison said after Thursday's hearing. "I was praying for this thing to be over. It's been a year. Then I had the charges dropped, and I walked out a free man. I'm just so glad it's over."

Ellison, 43, was the 16-year-old's godfather and a foster parent. He said the girl's grandmother had asked him to take the teen into his family upon her death.

Posted by kshaw at January 8, 2005 04:58 AM