Greenfield pastor indicted on sex assault charges

  • A Greenfield police badge Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/4/2020 6:25:01 PM

A Greenfield pastor has been indicted and charged with aggravated felonious sexual assault for crimes allegedly committed against a teenage girl he counseled over the course of a year.

Christopher Lawton, 43, of Greenfield, was indicted by the Hillsborough County Superior Court North on Oct. 26 on charges that he used his position of authority to coerce an underage girl to perform and receive various sexual acts while providing therapy to her, with five charges committed between January 2015 and June 2016, while the girl was 16 and 17 years old, according to court records.

Greenfield police first heard about the situation when they arrested Lawton on domestic violence assault charges on March 27, 2015, Chief Brian Giammarino said. The victim in that situation was Lawton’s wife, Giammarino said, who told police at the time that she felt uncomfortable with Lawton’s relationship with a minor in town. When police investigated, the minor initially denied having any physical contact with Lawton, but returned to the police with her mother two years later, on March 6, 2017, and said that there had been contact, Giammarino said. Greenfield police asked State Police Sergeant Kelly Healey to interview the girl at that point, he said.

Lawton had been attempting to start his own church at the time, Greenfield Covenant Church Reverend Dan Osgood said, and that he recalled speaking with Lawton after Lawton had asked to rent the Greenfield Meetinghouse for bible studies, since there are still some Greenfield Covenant Church items in the space, Osgood said. At the time, Lawton told Select Board members that 20 or 30 people were attending bible study at his house on Francestown Road, according to meeting minutes. Lawton’s ministry didn’t appear to have any denominational affiliation, Osgood said, and that he was not sure about his background or how he came to live in town.

Lawton’s domestic violence assault charges were never carried forward, Giammarino said, because his wife left town soon after the incident and Lawton provided proof that he’d entered counseling, a stipulation of the case, Giammarino said.

This case was brought as a direct indictment, which means Lawton had not been arrested and there were no criminal charges pending prior to the indictment, Assistant County Attorney Patrick Ives said. Direct indictments are typical for charges like aggravated felonious sexual assault, where there is often some delay between the crime and the report of the crime, he said. The next step in such a case is an arraignment, where the court gives the defendant notice of the charges against them, and a bail hearing typically happens after that, Ives said. Lawton has been ordered to appear in court for an arraignment on Nov. 19.

Aggravated felonious sexual assault while in an authority position is a Class S felony and is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison and a $4,000 fine, if convicted. Lawton’s trial is targeted for July 23, 2021, according to his case summary.


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