Alleged Victim Takes Stand in Pastor's Trial on Sex Abuse Charges

By Ben Penserga
The Daily Times
August 11, 2006

Salisbury -- The alleged victim of a Salisbury pastor accused of having an improper relationship with an underage member of his congregation testified Thursday they had sex several times over the span of a few months.

The Wicomico County Circuit Court trial of Joshua W. Lawson, 30, on charges of sex abuse of a minor and a handful of other sexually related charges began Thursday with the alleged victim testifying the two began having a sexual relationship on Aug. 4, 2005.

Lawson -- pastor of the New Life the Apostolic Church on Mount Hermon Road -- was charged in February in connection with allegations he had been having sex with a 16-year-old girl.

For several hours Thursday, the girl -- now 17 -- told the court of their alleged relationship, which allegedly began in August after Lawson reportedly made advances toward her one night while she was baby-sitting his two children.

"I didn't know what to do," she said, recounting his physical overtures that night. "I was speechless."

Over the next few months, the alleged victim said she and Lawson had sex about 15 to 20 times, mostly under the guise of baby-sitting his two children while his wife was working.

The girl said she had mixed feelings about the relationship, enjoying some of the closeness it provided and did not want to say anything to anybody because "(Lawson) had a lot to lose." After her loved ones started noticing a difference about her emotionally, she finally told her family and then the police in January.

However, when cross-examined by Lawson's attorney, Stephanie Shipley, about the encounters, the girl was not able to provide specific details to the court and was unsure when many things had happened.

In her opening statement to the jury, Wicomico County Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Ireland said Lawson's alleged relationship with the girl was a violation of trust given between a pastor and a member of the church.

"It is the worst kind of betrayal possible," she said.

But during Thursday's proceedings, Shipley also tried to show the alleged victim and her family may have had other grievances with the church prior to the allegations against Lawson, including conflicts with some of its Pentecostal edicts.

Lawson's trial -- including the balance of the prosecution's case, as well as defense proceedings -- is expected to finish today.


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