Victim in sex abuse case feared VineLife Church leaders would 'not take matter seriously' Youth Pastor Jason Roberson facing 6 felony charges
By Mitchell Byars, Camera Staff Writer Posted: 11/07/2013 01:37:06 PM MST Updated: 11/07/2013 06:27:34 PM MST Jason Allen Roberson (Boulder County Sheriff's Office) Related Stories Nov 6:
Boulder police ticket VineLife Church officials for failing to report alleged sex assault Sep 5: Boulder police:
Youth pastor at Vinelife Church had 'inappropriate relationship' with teen The woman who alleges she was sexually abused by a youth pastor at VineLife Church while she was a minor reported it to Boulder police because she feared the church would not take the matter seriously after attending a meeting with church leaders, according to police reports released Thursday.
Jason Allen Roberson, 35, the son of VineLife's senior pastor, Walt Roberson, is facing six felony charges in relation to the alleged abuse. Four other church officials -- Executive Pastor Robert Phillip Young, 65, Pastor Luke Michael Humbrecht, 30, and church elders Edward Charles Bennell, 65, and Warren Lloyd Williams, 66 -- have been ticketed for failing to report child abuse, with an unnamed fifth person still due to be ticketed.
The victim, Danielle DesGeorges, also is suing Roberson and VineLife Church in Boulder District Court. The Daily Camera generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse, but does have a policy of naming them in cases in which they initiate civil litigation. DesGeorges, who lives in Boulder and is now 24, went to police in April and told investigators that she and Roberson had an inappropriate relationship that began when she was 15 and continued for seven years.
According to police reports, DesGeorges told Humbrecht about the alleged abuse on March 8. When Humbrecht talked to Boulder police in July, he said he immediately confronted Roberson after the victim came forward, according to the report. Roberson admitted to Humbrecht that he touched the victim and watched her change clothes, though he did not say how old the victim was when he did these things, according to police records. On March 15, DesGeorges met with VineLife's Young, Bennell and Williams to discuss the allegations in a meeting that she recorded.
After the meeting, DesGeorges said church officials told her they did not believe there were any other victims and said Roberson would return to the church after counseling. According to the report, DesGeorges also received a phone call from Roberson's wife asking her to "not ruin their family with this information."
'Access to children' In April, DesGeorges went to police, telling investigators she feared the church "will not take this matter seriously and will allow Jason to continue in his position, where he has access to children," according to the report. In 2004, when DesGeorges was 15, she took an interest in pursuing a career in the church and began exchanging text messages with Roberson.
She told police Roberson would invite her to coffee or lunch and would confide in her about his home life and his depression. In 2007, DesGeorges told investigators, Roberson touched her in a sexual manner for the first time, and touched her in a sexual way at least 10 other times before her 18th birthday, according to police records.
DesGeorges also told police Roberson would drop by unannounced at her house when she was in high school and her dorm room at the University of Colorado when she was in college. The victim's sister recalled seeing Roberson enter the family's house through a dog door, while neighbors also reported seeing a person peering into the victim's window, according to police. When DesGeorges turned 18, Roberson helped her get a part-time position at the church.
According to the report, DesGeorges said Roberson threatened to fire her if she didn't do what he wanted. According to police reports, DesGeorges first told her current fiancée about her talks with Roberson in 2008, but did not tell him about the physical contact until 2010. DesGeorges said Roberson found out she had told her fiancée about the abuse after going through her phone.
DesGeorges' fiancée told Roberson in 2010 that he knew about the abuse, at which point Roberson told his father, Senior Pastor Walt Roberson, according to police records. Walt Roberson met with DesGeorges, according to the police report, but she did not tell him about the physical aspects of the inappropriate relationship. DesGeorges said she stopped hearing from Jason Roberson after that. DesGeorges quit her part-time job at the church in 2011. She went to a new church, where she told people about the alleged abuse and was encouraged to report it, according to police records.
This past July, two months after going to police, DesGeorges sued Roberson and VineLife, alleging the church "knew or should have known that defendant Roberson was emotionally, psychologically and sexually abusing" her, and that church leaders "failed to take appropriate action in response." Jeffrey Rose, DesGeorges' attorney, declined Thursday to discuss the lawsuit against VineLife. Boulder police obtained a warrant for Roberson's arrest in September, and he turned himself in to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office the same day.
He is currently free on $25,000 bond and is due in court for an arraignment Dec. 6. Reporting abuse Roberson has been charged with one count of sexual assault on a child by someone in a position of trust with a pattern of abuse and two counts of sexual exploitation of a child, all Class 3 felonies.
He also is facing two counts of unlawful sexual contact, a Class 4 felony, and stalking, a Class 5 felony. David Miller, Roberson's attorney, declined to comment on the case when reached Thursday. This week, Boulder police ticketed VineLife leaders Young, Humbrecht, Bennell and Williams on suspicion of failing to report child abuse, a Class 3 misdemeanor.
According to state law, those in professions such as teachers or pastors who are in a position of trust with vulnerable people have obligations to report suspected abuse. Officials with VineLife Church, 7845 Lookout Road, said in a statement Wednesday that they consulted an attorney who indicated that the church leadership would not violate Colorado law by not reporting the incident given the current age of the victim.
Colorado statute requires certain people who deal with children to report suspected abuse, but does make an exception when the parties in question do not "learn of the suspected abuse or neglect until after the alleged victim of the suspected abuse or neglect is 18 years of age or older."
However, the statute also states that exception is not valid when the suspect "is currently in a position of trust... with regard to any child currently under 18 years of age," or if there is a possibility the person "subjected any other child currently under 18 to abuse or neglect."
VineLife Church officials did not respond to requests for further comment Thursday.