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Broward County youth minister not guilty of sex abuse charges

Those who are accused of a sex crime in Florida face potentially severe penalties, including a possible prison term. But those who maintain they are falsely accused should not give up hope, as shown by a recent case that went to trial in Broward County. In that case, a 50-year-old former youth minister who was facing 27 felony charges of child sex abuse was found not guilty by a jury.

The man ran a home for neglected boys, and was accused by four of his former charges of sexually abusing them over a period of several years. The man met the alleged victims when he worked in previous jobs as a counselor and youth minister in Fort Lauderdale. He let the boys stay at his house, believing they needed a father figure. Although the home was not registered as a foster home and the youths were not in state foster care, some of the home's expenses were covered by a charitable foundation.

One of the witnesses who testified against the defendant was his ex-wife. She claimed she had discovered him in bed with a teenaged boy. The defendant maintained that his ex-wife was lying.

In cases like this, the credibility of witnesses can be critical. It is not unheard of for sexual abuse accusations to be fabricated. A defense lawyer can often call a witness' credibility into question by suggesting they have a motive to be untruthful. That motive might be revenge on the part of an ex-spouse. And sometimes adolescents will make false allegations against an authority figure, especially if the adolescent has been disciplined by that authority figure. If defense counsel can persuade the jury that a key prosecution witness is not to be believed, that may raise sufficient doubt to get an acquittal.

Source:, "Jury finds youth minister not guilty in sex abuse trial," Andrea Torres, April 10, 2014

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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