A Kansas jury has acquitted a Christian school leader accused of sexually abusing young girls in his care.
Dennis Creason, 49-year-old co-founder of Shawnee’s Oaklawn Christian School, was found not guilty on Tuesday of all five counts of child sex abuse lodged against him, according to Johnson County court records.
The case “boiled down to credibility and who should be believed,” Fox4 reported.
Creason appeared on the witness stand Monday and denied accusations that he fondled or touched children at his school between 2009 and 2018. He was arrested in August and his school, which taught pre-K to sixth-grade children, has since been shut down.
Creason’s defense lawyers argued that the stories of the alleged victims and their parents were not consistent, saying that the parents had played a game of “telephone” with their kids in which details of the allegations had changed, Fox4 reported.
“[The children] don’t have the details because what they’re being told to tell didn’t happen,” defense attorney Paul Cramm said.
But prosecutors argued that the five young girls who testified were afraid of Creason and had no reason to fabricate the allegations.
“He isolated these girls any way he could, for however brief amount of time he could get. That’s when he committed these crimes,” Johnson County’s assistant district attorney Sara Walton said. “The victims in this case trusted him. The families trusted him. But it didn’t stop him from finding the opportunity to violate these girls.”
Studies have shown that it’s very uncommon for people to lie about sexual assault. Only about 4%-8% of child sexual abuse reports are fabricated, according to the child sexual abuse prevention group Darkness to Light.
Ashley Easter, an advocate for abuse victims in religious settings, told HuffPost that through her work, she’s found that abusers tend to act in secret, purposefully creating “he said/she said” scenarios.
That’s why, Easter said, children’s voices should be given a lot of weight in situations like this.
“In the #MeToo era we have got to train law enforcement, legal defenders, judges, and even juries to understand the complexities of trauma,” Easter wrote in an email. “Lack of education about abuse and trauma response can lead to bad verdicts like this one.”
But Creason and his lawyer believe the not guilty verdict was an example of a “wonderful day for our system of justice.”
“I trust our justice system, I especially trust a jury. They did the right thing, they did their job very well,” Creason told Fox4.