December 12, 1995
Web posted at: 10:30 a.m. EST
From Correspondent Greg Lefevre
WATERVILLE, Washington (CNN) -- One of the highest profile cases in a series of controversial sex abuse cases came back in a resounding defeat for prosecutors Monday.
Unordained Pentecostal Pastor Robert Roberson and his wife Connie were cleared on all 14 counts.
"I have said all along that we are not guilty," said Connie Roberson, clutching a prayer shawl and a Bible. "We had a very good jury who saw the truth and knew the truth." (94K AIFF sound or 94K WAV sound)
The Robersons contended the charges were leveled against them as retaliation after they spoke out against a larger sex ring investigation. They had challenged some of the charges against others and criticized investigators' motives and methods. Twenty-eight people have been charged in what authorities are labeling two child sex rings that have operated in the Wenatchee area since 1988.
The controversy has divided the central Washington town of 35,000 residents. On one side are those who believe dozens of children have been raped. On the other are those who say a rogue police officer and obsessed social workers created an atmosphere of a sexual hysteria in which adults were bullied into confessions and children coaxed into accusations, in part, through questionable "recovered memory" therapy.
A few children -- including one who testified at the Robersons' trial -- said they didn't initially remember any abuse, but then recalled details in therapy.
During the three-week trial, the jury heard from 53 witnesses. A 13-year-old girl testified that children were taken into the basement at the East Wenatchee Pentecostal Church of God House of Prayer and ordered by Roberson to undress before they were tied up and raped.
At least four children that the girl said participated testified they never encountered any sexual activity at the church or the Robersons' home.
Three children testified the Robersons had sexually abused them. But seven children and seven adults, all church members, testified that no sexual activity had occurred.
The Robersons' defense team challenged the credibility of the lead officer, Wenatchee Police detective Bob Perez, and the huge volume of alleged offenses.
Perez admitted on the stand that he bruised one of the alleged victims while encouraging her to testify.
Another alleged victim was the Robersons' five-year-old daughter. Authorities moved her to foster care. She testified her parents never abused her.
"This ought to make a statement around the nation of what's going on with the authorities and officials ... the things they're doing to destroy people's lives and families. They need to be held accountable."
-- Robert Roberson (111K AIFF sound or 111K WAV sound)
Of the 28 people charged, five have been convicted and 12 have pleaded guilty so far. Three cases, including the Robersons', have ended in acquittal. Charges against five others were dismissed.
Justice Department officials say an investigation of the cases, begun at the request of Gov. Mike Lowry, has been completed, but they have not said what their findings are.
Roberson, 50, and his wife, 46, could each have faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted on charges of child rape and molestation.
They still face charges that they fraudulently obtained $27,000 in welfare aid between 1991 and 1995. That trial is scheduled to start December 21.
Copyright 1995 Cable News Network Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.
Copyright © 1995 Cable News Network, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.