Charges dropped against former Sunday school teacher

Associated Press/June 27, 2002

Portland, Maine -- Prosecutors have dropped charges against a former Sunday school teacher who was accused of sexually molesting a 7-year-old boy four years ago.

Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson announced Thursday that the charges were dropped against Thomas Wright, 43, of Gorham, because of insufficient credible evidence. Anderson said investigators uncovered a "distressing pattern" of allegations by members of Faith Baptist Church in North Yarmouth based on memories recovered during counseling with the church's pastor, Wes Harris.

Wright was arrested in April after the boy's parents told police that Wright had molested the boy when Wright was a Sunday school teacher at the church. Six other church members later claimed Wright had abused them.

Wright left the church in 2000 after challenging Harris about the way he ran his church, and later insisted that his wife leave the church too.

Anderson said Wright and his wife are now in a contentious divorce and custody proceeding, and that Harris has allied himself with Wright's wife.

After Wright's arrest, Harris' counseling methods became part of the investigation.

Former church members have said Harris, who has been pastor of the church for 18 years, has performed "recovered memory therapy" on many female church members, and nearly every one was found to have repressed a memory of sexual abuse.

Anderson said investigators determined that the abuse allegations occurred in counseling sessions with Harris, and that the "bias and unconventional therapeutic methods he employed to recover these memories would be a substantial issue in a trial."

"In addition, those who reported abuse were provided details of the claims of others," Anderson said. "Given this, there is no untainted evidence of abuse by Mr. Wright."

Harris could not be reached for comment. Nobody answered the church phone, and his home phone was busy.

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