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: Local10.com, “Jury finds youth minister not guilty in sex abuse trial,” Andrea Torres, April 10, 2014

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