Investigation in molestation case against former minister, officer ongoing

Robert David Johnston Jr. on left, appears on sexual abuse of minors charges in Laurens County Court on Monday, April 7, 2008. (Photo by Owen Riley, Jr., Staff)

BY ERIC CONNOR - STAFF WRITER

The Greenville News

April 9, 2008

An investigation is ongoing in connection with a former Laurens County school resource deputy and Baptist minister who is facing charges that he molested four children ages 5 to 10 years old over the course of a year, a state attorney general’s office spokesman said today.

Robert David Johnston Jr., 35, is charged with four counts of "lewd act on a child under the age of 16," according to a grand jury indictment.

Johnston is a former minister of New Hope Baptist Church in Clinton and a former school resource officer at Gray Court-Owings School, said Mark Plowden, a spokesman for S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster, whose office is prosecuting the case.

"The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are entirely possible," Plowden said.

In Laurens County court on Monday, Johnston pleaded not guilty before Circuit Judge Wyatt Saunders. Saunders set Johnston's bond at $100,000.

During court proceedings, state Assistant Attorney General Alan Wilson laid out the state's case against Johnston as Johnston stood before the judge with his father, Baptist minister Robert David Johnston Sr., beside him and a group of church supporters in the crowd.

Between April 2006 to April 2007, Johnston molested three girls and a boy, Wilson said in court. In some cases, he would sexually assault them when he helped them go to the bathroom, and in one case he dragged a girl up the stairs by her hair, Wilson said.

The children have suffered chronic physical problems as a result, he said. The victims' mother told the judge that one of the girls has expressed suicidal thoughts and the boy is struggling with "shame and guilt."

Johnston's attorney told the judge that the children's statements to forensic interviewers have been "conflicting" and "competing at best." Johnston's attorney told the judge that the mother has coached the children in what they should say at their interviews in an effort to conjure up allegations against Johnson in retribution.

Wilson told the judge that the children didn't disclose some abuse because they feared they get in trouble. Johnston used his position of authority as a deputy to discourage the mother from coming forward with the charges, and he failed a polygraph test as part of the investigation, Wilson said.

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