5 officials at Longmont church accused of failing to report alleged child abuse by youth pastor

BOULDER, Colo. - Five officials at Vinelife Church in Longmont are accused of failing to report that a youth pastor had allegedly sexually assaulted a church member since she was 15 years old.

Boulder police said Wednesday detectives have served summonses on Vinelife Church executive pastor Robert Phillip "Bob" Young, pastor Luke Humbrecht, pastor Edward Bennell and church elder Warren Lloyd Williams. A fifth church official, who is currently out of the country, will be served a summons when he returns to Colorado, said police spokeswoman Kim Kobel. Police will identify the fifth after he's been charged.

Each official faces one charge of duty to report child abuse, and is accused of failing to report the alleged child abuse to law enforcement or human services officials.

Boulder police arrested Vinelife youth pastor Jason Allen Roberson, 35, on Sept. 4 and charged him with one count of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust; one count of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of unlawful sexual contact. After reviewing the case, the Boulder County District Attorney added one count of stalking.

The alleged victim, who is now 24 years old, is also a former church staff member. She told police the "inappropriate" relationship with the youth pastor began when she was 15 years old and continued for seven years. She said she "trusted (Roberson) as an authority figure and spiritual guide, and felt uncomfortable disclosing the relationship to others," police said.

Vinelife Church issued a statement Wednesday saying, "The Church and its leadership have cooperated with law enforcement in their investigation concerning allegations of sexual misconduct made by a past member of the staff at Vinelife Church."

However, Boulder police reports obtained by 7NEWS say that "VineLife Church initially refused" to give investigators reports from a therapist treating Jason Roberson at the church's request. Vinelife officials refused to produce the records despite police serving the church on July 11 with a court order to produce records on the church's internal investigation of misconduct by the youth pastor.

The church produced the therapist's reports two months later, but only "after the Boulder District Attorney's office warned of possible contempt charges for failure to comply with a court order," police Detective Brannon Winn wrote in a report.

The Boulder police investigation raised questions about the background of 66-year-old Warren Williams, the church elder charged with failing to report the alleged child abuse.

On Tuesday, Detective Winn met with Williams to serve him with a summons. The detective also asked Williams about his arrest for "assault to minor" by Denver police in June of 1968. Williams told the detective "he does not recall ever having been arrested by Denver PD, and could offer no explanation," the police report said.

Denver police told the Boulder detective that the records for Warren's 1968 arrest no longer exist. 7NEWS checked Williams' state arrest history and found the Denver "assault to minor" case was "dropped by police," according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation database. In a separate incident, Williams, who was then 21 years old, was convicted of assault in May of the same year in Boulder County, according CBI records.

In the current church abuse case, the woman left the church and moved to Aspen to distance herself from Jason Roberson, according to an arrest affidavit.

But she returned to meet with VineLife Church leaders on March 15 and told them what had happened with the youth pastor, the affidavit said. She spoke with pastors Bob Young and Ed Bennel and church elder Warren Williams for about two hours and an audio recording was made of the meeting, according to a police report.

A police investigator was given an audio disk containing about the first 30 minutes the meeting, when the woman gave her version of  what happened, the police report said.

Church leaders suspended Roberson and began an internal investigation, but they never reported the alleged sexual abuse to police.

Jason Roberson's father, Walter Roberson, is a senior pastor and elder at Vinelife Church. It's unknown what role, if any, Walter Roberson played in the church's internal investigation or decision-making regarding his son and the abuse case.

The church's Wednesday statement said: "It was the understanding of the Church leadership that the former employee did not want this matter to be made public. As such, the Church sought and obtained legal counsel, who indicated the Church leadership would not violate Colorado law by not reporting the incident given the current age of the victim."

Nearly two months later, the woman reported on May 8 to Boulder police what she'd endured for years.

Jeff Rose, attorney for the woman, said: “It’s important to see that justice is served.  We’re in the early stages of that process, and we need to let the judicial system address this matter fully and fairly.”

After being served with the July court order, the church did release some documents stating that "Jason Roberson has repeatedly confessed to church officials that he has touched (the victim's) breasts on multiple occasions," the affidavit stated.

Church leaders had Roberson take a lie-detector test as part of their internal investigation, the affidavit said. The polygraph examiner's report said Jason Roberson admitted groping the girl a month before her 18th birthday, when she was a juvenile, the affidavit said.

During an interview with police, Jason Roberson admitted touching the girl's breasts but he wavered on whether she was a juvenile or adult when this happened, the affidavit said. He also admitted that the girl had seen a photo of his penis on his cellphone, but he denied that he intentionally showed her the image, the affidavit said.

Jason Roberson also admitted to the detective that he had watched through windows as the teen changed her clothes -- once at the church and once at her home. But Jason Roberson told the detective "he had stopped watching (the teen) prior to seeing her nude," according to the affidavit.

The Vinelife Church statement says: "A civil lawsuit has been filed by the former employee and, consequently, Vinelife Church cannot comment further regarding the pending legal actions."

The entire Vinelife Church statement:

"The Church and its leadership have cooperated with law enforcement in their investigation concerning allegations of sexual misconduct made by a past member of the staff at Vinelife Church. The former employee, who is now 24 years old, first reported the possibility of sexual misconduct to the Church in March of this year, 2013. The pastor accused of misconduct was placed on administrative leave. It was the understanding of the Church leadership that the former employee did not want this matter to be made public. As such, the Church sought and obtained legal counsel, who indicated the Church leadership would not violate Colorado law by not reporting the incident given the current age of the victim. Soon after the former employee gave notice to the Church, she reported the incident to the City of Boulder Police Department. A civil lawsuit has been filed by the former employee and, consequently, Vinelife Church cannot comment further regarding the pending legal actions."