Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Judge again dismisses case against former minister

by Rob Ireland

January 05, 2012

ELKHORN — On Wednesday morning, Judge Robert Kennedy dismissed the criminal case against a former Walworth minister, who allegedly failed to report sexual assaults that occurred between young boys last year.

Joseph R. Fultz, now of Milton, was charged with five counts of failure to report child abuse or neglect, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of nine months imprisonment and $10,000 in fines.

According to the criminal complaint, six boys, who are now between the ages of 6 and 12, engaged in sexual contact with each other at Faith Christian School, The Abbey Resort and in a restroom at Grace Evangelical Church, where Fultz was a minister. In the case, no adults are suspected of having sexual contact with children.

Kennedy dismissed the case because the criminal complaint failed to show that Fultz, who was a minister at Grace Evangelical Church, had direct contact with any of the boys during the course of his professional duties.

State law requires certain professionals — teachers, members of the clergy, doctors — to report suspected child abuse to authorities. However, the law also requires that those professionals need to have direct contact with the children.

Fultz's attorney, Steve Harvey, who filed a motion to dismiss the case, didn't expect it to be tossed during Wednesday morning's status conference.

"It was a bit surprising. It's not an easy decision to dismiss a criminal case," Harvey said.

This is the second time Kennedy has dismissed the case. Kennedy dismissed the case because the first criminal complaint failed to show that Fultz had direct contact with any of the boys.

District Attorney Phillip Koss filed an amended complaint, which provided more details into the behavior between the boys, that the children were members of the church and that Fultz attended a youth group that one of the boys was involved with.

Although Kennedy dismissed the case, he left the door open a little bit for Koss. He is giving Koss until Jan. 23 to submit a written argument to reopen the case.

See next week's Regional News for more information regarding this case.