Charges against former Village Church employee dismissed

(File Photo)

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A district court granted the Dallas County District Attorney’s office motion to dismiss criminal charges against Matthew Tonne, a former employee of The Village Church in Flower Mound, for an alleged sex offense due to “lack of probable cause.”

Tonne, a former associate children’s minister at the Dallas-area megachurch, had been accused of indecency with a child involving sexual contact. The Dallas County grand jury indicted Tonne in January 2019 for an offense that allegedly occurred in 2012 at a Kids Camp at Mount Lebanon Retreat and Conference Center in Cedar Hill.

A motion to dismiss granted Aug. 27 by the 265th Judicial District Court noted the case had been “thoroughly investigated” by the Cedar Hill Police Department and the Dallas County District Attorney’s office. The motion stated the individual who filed the complaint “cannot and has not positively identified” Tonne as the offender.

“At the time this case was presented to the Dallas County Grand Jury, the complainant could not and did not positively identify defendant as the person who committed this offense. Despite that fact, the Grand Jury indicted the case,” the motion stated.

“Upon further investigation by the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, the fact remains that the complainant cannot and has not positively identified defendant as the person who committed this offense.

“The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office therefore moves to dismiss this case in the interest of justice because there was at the time of presentment, and there is at the time of this motion to dismiss, a lack of probable cause to believe the defendant committed this offense.”

Church posts online update

An Aug. 31 notice on The Village Church’s website titled “Update on 2012 Kids Camp Case” stated: “In 2018, we informed you of a criminal investigation involving one of our former employees, Matt Tonne. Last week, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office moved to dismiss the criminal charges, and that motion was granted by the court. … We continue to pray for all involved.”

The online notice also included links to the church’s “Care Department” resources, including a hotline to text or call and information on obtaining a counseling referral.

The update on the website did not provide any information about a lawsuit against the church by a woman who alleged Tonne sexually assaulted her when she was 12 years old.

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In a legal response filed Aug. 23, 2019, in Dallas County Court, the church asserted it was not liable for damages and challenged the plaintiff’s claim of more than $1 million in damages, citing provisions in the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code, as well as the Texas Charitable Immunity Act.

The attorney of record who was representing the church in the civil action did not respond to an email from the Baptist Standard within 24 hours. The Standard attempted to contact the church by phone, but a recording said offices are closed.

Religion News Service quoted J. Mitchell Little, one of the lawyers representing the woman who accused Tonne, as saying the district attorney did not speak to his client before dismissing the charges.

“Our client and her family are shocked and disgusted at the Dallas County District Attorney’s sudden decision to dismiss this case without so much as consulting her or even picking up the telephone to talk with her before they decided to dismiss it,” he told RNS.

He added the lawsuit against The Village Church is moving forward, and he expects a jury trial in 2021.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The last three paragraphs were added Sept. 2 after the article originally was posted the previous day.

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