Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Former minister wants case thrown out

by Rob Ireland

August 25, 2011

ELKHORN — Three motions have been filed to dismiss a case against a former Evangelical minister, who allegedly failed to report to authorities sexual acts occurring between young boys at his church and at Faith Christian School.

Joseph R. Fultz, who was a minister at Grace Evangelical Free Church in Walworth, faces five misdemeanor counts of failing to report child abuse or neglect. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and $1,000 in fines.

Fultz was charged because he was allegedly aware of sexual acts that were occurring between young boys at his church and at the school. According to the complaint, Fultz discussed the incidents with the boys at Faith Christian School.

As a member of the clergy, Fultz is legally required to report this type of incident to authorities. The sexual acts only allegedly occurred between children, and no adult is suspected of misconduct.

Fultz’s defense attorney, Steven Harvey, of Wassel, Harvey & Schuk LLP in Delavan, has filed three motions to have the case dismissed. Harvey’s motions claim the District Attorney’s Office is selectively prosecuting Fultz, provided an insufficient complaint and has inappropriately charged him with the same crime five separate times.

During a court hearing Monday morning, Fultz briefly appeared in front of Judge Robert Kennedy. Kennedy is giving the state an opportunity to respond to Harvey’s motions to dismiss the case, and Fultz isn’t expected back in court until Oct. 3 at 3 p.m.

Harvey is moving to dismiss the case because he states the DA’s office is selectively prosecuting Fultz, because charges haven’t been filed against Faith Christian School Administrator Craig Skrede or teacher Michelle Frodl, who both also were allegedly aware of the incidents.

“No similar criminal complaint has been filed against Mr. Skrede, for no apparent, valid reason,” Harvey wrote.

When charges were first filed against Fultz, District Attorney Phillip Koss said he was considering charges against Skrede and the teacher, but later opted not to prosecute them.

In a separate motion, Harvey argued the criminal complaint doesn’t provide information that a crime was committed. According to Harvey’s letter, the complaint fails to state when Fultz met with the children at Faith Christian School and who the children were. It also states that Fultz doesn’t work at Faith Christian School and wouldn’t have met with the children as an official.

“There is no connection, suggesting the defendant did not meet with the unspecified children in a professional capacity,” the motion states.

Harvey’s motion also states that Fultz didn’t meet with the children regarding the sexual acts between the children, but another issue.

The motion to dismiss the case because of “multiplicity” says that the state is violating Fultz’s legal right not to face double jeopardy by charging him five separate times. The motion asks Kennedy to dismiss all five counts or four of the five.

“It is apparent that the defendant should, if anything, under the facts of this case, be exposed to no more than one count of failure to report abuse/neglect, because he allegedly learned of this series of incidents in one meeting with the children,” the motion states.

According to the criminal complaint:

When interviewed by authorities, Fultz said he was aware the children involved in the assaults and their families were members of Grace Evangelical Church.

Fultz told investigators he contacted the superintendent of the district church and another unidentified pastor to discuss the situation. He said after discussing the situation, it was agreed that the “incident was nonreportable because of the ages of the children,” according to the complaint narrative.

Investigators also talked with teachers at Faith Christian, and were told that Fultz came to the school and pulled children out of class to question them.

An investigating detective also reportedly reviewed a written report by Skrede referring to a Jan. 7, 2010 meeting with parents about the incident at Faith Christian School. It was agreed that the school would make sure the assaults did not happen again.

According to the narrative in the criminal complaint, one incident occurred in a restroom at Grace Evangelical Church, and another was in a restroom at Faith Christian School, Williams Bay. Another incidents reportedly happened at the Abbey Resort in Fontana and a fourth allegedly took place at a private residence in Walworth.