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Assault cases probed
NICOLE MARSHALL World Staff Writer
08/26/1999
News

LAWSON

ORU officials failed to report the sexual assaults, police say.

A pair of Tulsa police detectives were assigned Wednesday to investigate whether Oral Roberts University officials may have violated a law by failing to report the sexual assaults of boys who were attending summer camps there, as alleged by an investigating officer.

At the same time, ORU officials released a statement saying that when they investigated initial reports in June, the incidents were not believed to have been criminal.

"Incidents reported in June 1999 were investigated by a campus security officer, who notified his supervisor. A decision was made that those incidents didn't appear to rise to the level of a crime and could have been interpreted as hazing."

Meanwhile, a sex crimes detective continued to investigate Avery Demontcq Lawson's claim that he molested six boys at ORU, including one at a summer camp last year.

Sgt. Pat Calhoun said state law dictates that anyone who is aware of the abuse of a juvenile must report that abuse to the Department of Human Services. Calhoun said the law states that DHS should be notified promptly and that DHS in turn reports the cases to police.

Calhoun said ORU officials were notified in May about asSEE ORU A-3 < > < Read Aesthet Comp (1) > < Read Shape Comp (1) > < Read Site Comp (1) > <* Read Skew Col Comp (1) ? > < > ORU:

Man charged with

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Lawson, 20, of Temple, Texas, was charged Monday with one count of forcible sodomy and two counts of lewd molestation of a minor. He has been expelled from ORU.

Newspaper reports from the Temple (Texas) Daily Telegram show that Lawson, a licensed Baptist minister who has been ministering in churches since he was 14, started a club called the Children of God Club of Temple at his 2,000-student high school when he was a sophomore.

"The club started with 8 to 10 members and by the end of his senior year grew to 30 to 40 students," the October 1998 story said. "Lawson taught sometimes three times a week in the meetings as well as held a citywide youth rally. He also counseled with students on various issues ranging from sexuality to satanism and depression.

"In his sophomore year, he served as president of the Baptist Willow Grove Junior Brotherhood Association, . . . a conglomeration of 23 different churches with more than 200 different young men."

In that position, he preached at churches across central Texas and at the Baptist state youth convention, the Daily Telegram reported.

A story published by the Telegram in April 1986 quoted Lawson, then a Temple High School junior and president of the Children of God Club, as saying club officers must have maturity, high academics and dedication to Christian values.

"If you're going to lead a Christian group, you have to set an example," said Lawson, who the paper said wanted to be an evangelist and minister.

The paper also said Lawson, while a student at ORU in 1998, had accepted a position as youth pastor at a Tulsa church. That could not be confirmed Wednesday night.

Tulsa police first learned of allegations of molestation July 22 when a man reported that his 13-year-old son had been sexually assaulted at an ORU summer soccer camp, an affidavit by Tulsa Police Detective E.R. Eagan said. A university official said ORU also reported the incident that day.

But Eagan alleged in the affidavit that other allegations of molestations were not reported to police.

Eagan said her investigation "revealed that Oral Roberts University possessed nine pages of written documentation in the form of witness statements by juveniles alleging that they were the victims of a sexual assault or the attempted victims of sexual assaults or witnesses to these events . . . during the months of May, June and July of 1999, and that none of these incidents was reported to the police by ORU staff," the affidavit stated.

The school also had documentation about alleged incidents reported by a dormitory resident assistant and security staff, Eagan said. Calhoun said that during a meeting with police supervisors Wednesday, Eagan told them that "so far the suspect has been more righteous with us than ORU officials."

The ORU statement issued Wednesday by David Wagner, a spokesman for the university, said that "when campus security received a report at 10:45 p.m. on July 21, 1999, of an incident that did appear to be a crime, they filed the initial report with the Tulsa Police Department. The following morning, . . . ORU gave the complete incident reports for the June and July incidents to an officer who responded from the Tulsa Police Department."

ORU officials continued to try to identify a suspect, and a suspect was interviewed Aug. 16 when he returned to campus to register for fall classes, Wagner's statement said.

"After the suspect confessed to campus officials about the incidents, several attempts were made that same evening, August 16, 1999, to reach the sex crimes unit of the Tulsa Police Department to report that a suspect had been identified."

Eagan talked to the head of security Aug. 17 and requested the tape-recorded confessions from him, but her request was denied, according to her affidavit.

Police brought Lawson to the Sex Crimes Unit on Aug. 18, and he was interviewed and arrested. At that time police learned of previous victims.

Eagan's affidavit stated: "After Lawson was advised of his Miranda rights, Lawson admitted to committing several sexual assaults of six different juvenile boys who were attending soccer camps and math/science academies during May, June, and July of 1998 and May, June and July of 1999 on the campus of Oral Roberts University."

"ORU's director of campus security was unaware of these previous incidents but began reviewing previous reports," according to Wagner's statement. "Those initial incidents, reported in May, also were investigated by a campus security officer."

Calhoun said the victim Lawson was referring to who was assaulted in 1998 has not been located. He said there is no indication ORU was notified about an assault in 1998.

by,EMarshal Nicole Marshall, World staff writer, can be reached at 581-8459 or via e-mail at nicole.marshall@tulsaworld.com.



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