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Former Minnesota pastor facing sexual assault charges

Judge Kelly Thimm set a cash bail of $500,000 for Jeffrey Anthony Charles, five times the amount requested by Douglas County (Wis.) District Attorney Mark Fruehauf.

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SUPERIOR, Wis. — A Wisconsin man accused of sexually assaulting a child while he was a church pastor in Minnesota made his initial appearance Wednesday, May 18, in Douglas County Circuit Court.

Jeffrey Anthony Charles, 61, of Danbury, faces one count of repeated sexual assault of a child, persistent repeater, for alleged incidents that took place between 2005 and 2010. Douglas County Circuit Court Judge Kelly Thimm set a cash bail of $500,000 for Charles, five times the amount requested by Douglas County District Attorney Mark Fruehauf. Charles was ordered to have no contact with the victim or minors, to surrender his passport and not to leave the state of Wisconsin.

Jeffrey Anthony Charles.jpeg
Jeffrey Charles
Contributed / Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Charles was serving as the pastor of the Neighbors to Nations church in Princeton, Minnesota, during the time of the assaults, according to the criminal complaint. Parishioners routinely traveled to Charles’ cabin in Summit, Wisconsin, to serve him.

The victim reported being sexually assaulted multiple times at the cabin between the ages of 3 and 7, the complaint said. She told Detective Mike Miller with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office that Charles took her alone into his cabin to assault her, but other girls from the church and their families were present on the property.

Charles had the victim call him “daddy Charles” and told her she was his daughter, according to the criminal complaint. She told Miller there was a group of girls that Charles treated special but she was younger and closer to him. People would tell her she should be thankful to be his favorite, the victim reported.

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The former pastor was convicted of third-degree sexual abuse in 1997 in the state of Iowa, according to the criminal complaint. The statute under which Charles was convicted requires proof that the defendant committed a sex act with another person who was 12 or 13 years of age.

If convicted, Charles faces life imprisonment. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, May 25, with a status conference the day before to check if Charles has an attorney to represent him.
Survivors of clergy or faith leader abuse, their friends and family, or anyone who has information about the actions of Jeffrey Anthony Charles are encouraged to report that information to the DOJ either online at SupportSurvivors.widoj.gov or by calling 1-877-222-2620.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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