harges against a man accused of molesting his 4-year-old cousin in a York County Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in 2005 have been dismissed partly because the alleged offenses occurred when he was a juvenile.
John Logan Haugh, now 26, who now lives in Delaware, was charged in May of this year with two counts of indecent assault of a person under the age of 13 in a case that shed light on the how the Jehovah’s Witnesses handle child sexual assault cases.
When John Haugh appeared in court Tuesday morning for a pre-trial conference, his attorney and the prosecutor had a discussion with Judge Maria Musti Cook out of earshot of the gallery in courtroom 7006. When court resumed, the prosecutor moved to dismiss the charges. The reasons were not elaborated.
John Haugh’s lawyer, Jeffrey Marshall, said “a number of factors” played into the prosecution’s offer to dismiss the charges. He would not elaborate, saying that he didn’t want to jeopardize the agreement reached with the district attorney’s office.
The district attorney's office released a statement that said, "Due to the defendant's age at the time of the offense and compliance with the parameters of the agreement, both parties felt it was an appropriate resolution."
The girl’s father, Martin Haugh, a former elder in the Jehovah’s Witnesses who told police he had witnessed the abuse, said an assistant district attorney called his wife on Friday to inform her that the charges would be dismissed.
Martin Haugh said the assistant district attorney explained that since the alleged molestation occurred when John Haugh was a juvenile - about 13 or 14 at the time - the law in the case was different than if he had been an adult at the time. Because the younger Haugh had cooperated with authorities and had undergone evaluation and therapy, Martin Haugh said, he had been determined “not to be a threat to society.”
Martin Haugh said his family was “very disappointed” that the charges had been dismissed, but he understood why it happened. He didn’t fault the district attorney’s office, that they were simply following the law.
“They did more than the elders did,” he said. “At least, they attempted to do something.”
The alleged abuse occurred at the Kingdom Hall in Windsor Township. Haugh has reported that his wife had left him and his daughter to use the bathroom and during that time, John Haugh had lured the girl into “a secluded area where he assaulted her,” according to the criminal complaint filed in the case.
When Martin Haugh went to look for his daughter, he found her in a room sitting on John Haugh’s lap. He had his hand on her genital area under her clothing, according to the complaint.
Less than a week later, Martin Haugh said, it happened again.
In the criminal complaint, police said John Haugh "allegedly...molested other children."
Martin Haugh reported what happened to the church elders at the time, believing that they were mandated to report it to authorities under state law. The elders did not report it to police and John Haugh transferred to a different Kingdom Hall, Martin Haugh said.
Martin Haugh became disillusioned with the church and left it in 2016. He reported the abuse to police in 2017.
The dismissal of the charges does not affect Martin Haugh’s civil lawsuit filed against the church for not reporting the abuse to police, he said. That suit is pending.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses face, and have faced, other civil suits filed by survivors of abuse who allege that the church’s elders failed to report the crimes to authorities as mandated by law. The church often handles such cases internally, allowing its lay elders to decide punishment for offenders.
Critics say that the church’s insular nature and its rejection of secular authority creates an atmosphere that allows such crimes to go unreported.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have responded to such suits by saying that it abhors child sexual abuse as a sin against Jehovah and that its policies are consistent with secular laws.