Five Tulsa church employees accused of waiting more than two weeks to report the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl at their church have been ordered back to court Oct. 31.
Prosecutors filed misdemeanor charges last week against Victory Christian Center employees John Daugherty, Charica Daugherty, Paul Willemstein, Anna George and Harold "Frank" Sullivan, saying they didn't report allegations in a timely manner.
A judge entered not guilty pleas for the five Wednesday. The workers have been suspended by the church pending an investigation.
Prosecutors say the girl told employees Aug. 15 she had been raped but police weren't told until Aug. 30.
Authorities say the girl is one of at least four victims of alleged sex crimes by two former employees who face criminal charges.
Prosecutors said the staff learned two employees were having sexual relationships with underage girls, but didn't call police until two weeks later.
This is the first time anyone has been charged with breaking this law in Tulsa County, but prosecutors say people need to understand the law applies to every single citizen.
Wednesday's court date was the first step in the process of disposing of the misdemeanor charge against Victory Christian's youth pastors, John and Charica Daughtery, youth director Willemstein, high school outreach director George and human resources director Sullivan.
The next step is for their attorneys to meet with the district attorney to see if the case will go to a jury trial so they can fight the charges or will end in plea bargain.
"I'm sure we will discuss negotiations and try and figure out what their positioning is," Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris said. "This is an ongoing investigation as you can tell."
Court documents state a 13-year-old girl told Sullivan and Willemstein she had been sexually assaulted by employee Chris Denman, but rather than calling police immediately, the men conducted their own investigation. Denman and a second employee, Israel Castillo, were then fired.
Records show police weren't contacted for two weeks, which prosecutors said violates Oklahoma law.
"Everybody has to be treated equally," Harris said. "The statute says every person has a responsibility and you can't shirk that responsibility off to somebody else."
Records show sexually graphic messages were exchanged on Facebook or through text message between Denman and Castillo and up to four underage girls.
Harris said people seem to think "sexting" is harmless and casual, but it can have criminal consequences and parents need to get involved.
"You need to be checking who they're talking to and what they're saying," Harris said. "Children are vulnerable. That's why the law steps in and protects them. That's why we have levels that say, ‘even if you want to consent, you can't consent.'"
Attorney Jason Robertson, who is representing John and Charica Daughtery, released this statement to News On 6:
"We have been researching the statutes, and have found several issues with our interpretation of the law as well as inconsistencies in the evidence presented. We will not be discussing that publicly right now. We plan to discuss our findings directly with District Attorney Tim Harris."
The alleged victim's mother filed a lawsuit against Victory Christian on Friday.
The mother claims the church failed to do a proper investigation into Denman's background before he was hired to work at the church's Camp Victory, which is where she said her daughter first met Denman, and then, once notified of the alleged assault, failed to report it to the proper authorities and the parents.
The suit also claims youth leaders told the 13-year-old girl that the rape she reported was her fault.
The suit claimsVictory Christian Senior Pastor Sharon Daugherty also knew of the alleged assault and failed to inform authorities, though she was not charged.
The Associated Press contributed to this report