Authorities have charged a Maryland pastor, his minister son and another church leader with sexually abusing four teen girls in a program for at-risk youth. One of the men is a U.S. Capitol Police officer who has been placed on non-duty status.
Prince George's County police say the abuse occurred between 2001 and 2008, when the victims were between age 15 and 18 and were part of a program run by the Oxon Hill Assembly of Jesus Christ in Fort Washington. The program was called Children Having Overcoming Power, or CHOP, and was designed to provide living accommodations and classes for at-risk young people, police said.
The suspects were identified Wednesday as 67-year-old Joshua William Wright of Brandywine; his 46-year-old son, William Joshua Wright of White Plains; and 40-year-old Donald Jackson, also of White Plains.
Police say the elder Wright is head pastor of the church, where his son is a minster. Jackson is the elder Wright's son-in-law and one of the church leaders.
William Wright is a U.S. Capitol Police officer who has been placed on non-duty status. The department takes the charges "very seriously," a spokeswoman said.
"Upon notification of the investigation by the Prince George’s County Police, the Department immediately placed him in a non-duty status. As this is an ongoing investigation, the USCP will continue to monitor the outcome of this matter in Prince George’s County," a statement said.
Police say the girls were abused at the suspects' homes, at various parks and inside the church itself.
"What's really disturbing about this is that these children were vulnerable. They were coming to a program to get assistance, and they became victims," Maj. Anthony Schartner said.
The victims, now adults, came forward earlier this year to report abuse they said they suffered when they were under the care of the men when they were teenagers.
No one answered the door at the church on Wednesday. Parishioners in the parking lot refused to comment.
All three men have hired well-known defense lawyers to challenge the charges. The attorneys did not immediately respond to inquiries.
Police are asking anyone who experienced abuse related to the CHOP program to come forward. The program ended in 2011. To contact police, call 301-772-4930. If you would like to be anonymous, call 866-411-TIPS or visit pgcrimesolvers.com.