For the third time in less than two weeks, a Lowcountry pastor has been charged in connection with a sex crime involving a juvenile.
In the latest case, Charleston County sheriff's deputies charged Ronald Jones, 53, of Wadmalaw Island with second-degree sexual conduct with a minor.
Jones, an associate pastor at the New Jerusalem AME Church on the island, is accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy during a baby shower last year at Jones' home, according to an affidavit.
Jones said Wednesday that he's innocent. He declined to discuss the allegations based on the advice of his attorney.
The affidavit said the boy told a child-care counselor this month that Jones invited him into his room to watch television during a baby shower between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31. Sheriff's Maj. John Clark said the victim did not remember the exact day of the baby shower.
The affidavit said the suspect rubbed himself against the boy and asked the victim to perform a sexual act on him.
Jones was released on $100,000 bail. He has multiple convictions for breach of trust and writing fraudulent checks.
The AME Church officially condemns all sexual misconduct and "takes significant steps" to prevent it within the church, said Benjamin Harrison, public relations director for the 7th District AME Church, which oversees the state.
"The church obtains criminal background checks on all of its clergy, teachers and representatives," Harrison wrote in a statement. "Annually it holds workshops designed to educate its clergy and laity concerning sexual misconduct."
He said the most recent event took place last May.
Since the church recognizes that people are fallible, it continues to emphasize education and awareness, and reviews its policies annually, Harrison said.
Jones was the second pastor arrested this week with a prior criminal history.
Dorchester County sheriff's deputies on Monday charged Marion Leon Kosier Jr., a registered sex offender, with committing or attempting a lewd act on a child younger than 16.
Kosier, pastor of Harleyville Christian Church, is accused of exposing himself last year to a 5-year-old girl who attended the church.
Kosier was released on $35,000 bail. Kosier's wife, Lil, said her husband is innocent and has never been alone with the child.
In a third case, a home-based minister was indicted this month on charges of possessing child pornography.
Dorchester County sheriff's deputies charged Kevin Jerome Powers, 47, of Summerville with possession of child pornography and receipt of child pornography. Authorities said they seized a computer from Powers' home that contained the images. He was released on $10,000 bail.
Adam Parker contributed to this report. Reach Andy Paras at 937-5589 or email@example.com.