WOODSTOCK – The former pastor of the Toms Brook United Methodist Church had a sexual assault charge against him thrown out on Thursday morning.
Stanley Thompson, 62, no longer faces the charge of aggravated sexual battery of a child less than 13 years old after Judge Chad Logan dismissed it in Shenandoah County Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court at the end of a preliminary hearing.
The Northern Virginia Daily could not listen to the child's testimony due to a state statute that protects the child.
But closing arguments indicated that the charge stemmed from Thompson playfully tickling the juvenile in a room with three other witnesses and briefly touching the top of the child's genital area over clothes.
The child then went outside the residence of where the incident occurred in October 2020 to tell one of the other witnesses what happened, according to testimony and closing arguments.
Thompson had an established playful relationship with the child, and they didn't see anything inappropriate the day of the incident, one of the witnesses testified.
The witness had told the child, but not Thompson, to stop the tickling a few months prior to the incident because the witness had become uncomfortable.
Only the child and the one witness testified during the hearing.
Attorney Beau Bassler, who represented Thompson, said Logan made a decision that was correct and tracked with the statute.
"This wasn't an abhorrent ruling," Bassler said after the hearing.
Logan explained during the hearing before dismissing the charge that evidence for the charge must prove an intent to molest the victim, according to state code. That wasn't present in this instance, Logan said.
The touching was for a period of no more than two seconds, Bassler argued during the hearing. The child did do the right thing in telling somebody about being touched where a person shouldn't have been touched, Bassler said after the hearing.
Shenandoah County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Collins argued that the reaction of the child should be considered, which involved them immediately telling one of the witnesses in the room what had happened after it did.
While being disappointed in Logan's decision, Collins said after the hearing that he respected it.
"I can't say that his analysis of the law is wrong," Collins said.
The Commonwealth's Attorney's office could seek a direct indictment against Thompson, bringing the charge back at the circuit court level. Collins said that action will be evaluated as Bassler said Thompson would fight the charge at any time, anywhere.
"He's not guilty, hundred percent," Bassler said.
Thompson declined to comment after the hearing, except to say that he was glad about the result, is digesting it, and then will decide what his future plans may be. Thompson retired from the church in the days prior to his arrest and was confined to house arrest where his family lived in Blacksburg for a period of time while he was on bond.