Salisbury Pastor Acquitted In Teen Rape Case

Associated Press/August 12, 2006

Salisbury, Md --. A Salisbury pastor accused of having a sexual relationship with an underage girl in his congregation has been acquitted of all charges.

A Wicomico County Circuit Court jury found Joshua Lawson, 30, not guilty of sexual abuse of a minor and engaging in a perverted practice following a two-day trial.

The decision came after about 30 minutes of deliberation.

"We were surprised how quickly it came, but we were not surprised about the verdict," said Lawson's attorney, Stephanie Shipley.

Lawson, pastor of New Life the Apostolic Church, was charged by police in February with allegedly having sex with a then 16-year-old girl for several months starting in August 2005.

For nearly three hours Thursday, the teenager who is now 17, testified that Lawson allegedly made sexual advances toward her Aug. 4, 2005, while she baby-sat his two children while his wife was out of town.

The allegations did not come to the police until January, after she told her parents.

Lawson denied all the charges, saying he never made any moves that might be misinterpreted by the alleged victim.

"In my church, we don't even hug the women," he said. "We just shake hands."

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