AUBURN — A former Lewiston church youth minister denied in court Thursday a string of sexual assault charges stemming from allegations brought by a male teenage member of the church.

Joshua Williams, 22, of 16 Granite St. appeared in Androscoggin County Superior Court on Thursday where he pleaded not guilty to three counts of gross sexual assault and three counts of unlawful sexual contact.

The assault charges are Class C felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison; the contact charges are misdemeanors, each punishable by up to a year in jail.

Williams wore a suit during the brief court hearing, accompanied by his lawyer, Leonard Sharon. Justice Donald Marden set bail at $25,000, unsecured. That means if Williams were to fail to show up for scheduled court appearances, he would owe the state that amount.

Marden also ordered that Williams have no direct or indirect contact with the alleged victim and have no unsupervised contact with anyone younger than 17 years old.

Williams worked full time at First Assembly of God Church from June 2009 to October 2010, according to Pastor Donald Cougle, during the time when the crimes were alleged to have been committed.

Williams was indicted by an Androscoggin County grand jury last month. One of the felony sexual assault charges stems from an alleged incident in Bar Harbor on Aug. 15, 2009, during a camping trip. Another of the assault charges allegedly occurred Oct. 15, 2009, in Auburn, according to court records. The third assault charge allegedly happened in Lewiston on Feb. 15, 2010. The contact incidents occurred twice in Auburn and once in Lewiston during the spring and summer of 2009, according to the indictment.

The alleged victim was 15 years old in 2009, according to a parent.

Williams worked at the church as a “teacher, employee or other official having instructional, supervisory or disciplinary authority” over the minor victim who was a “student enrolled in a private or public elementary, secondary or special education school, facility or institution,” the indictment reads.

According to Pastor Cougle, Williams was hired to work in various aspects of church ministry, including music and youth ministries at the Pentecostal church on Hogan Road. Williams’ main focus was on the youth ministries, Cougle said. All of the incidents allegedly occurred while the victim was a member of the church.

The church’s Teens & Youth Alive program is geared to members ages 7 to 12 and includes weekly services and various other fellowship activities. The church also offers ranger programs with a host of activities, such as camping trips and mission work for children in grades K-12, including leadership training programs for high-school-age members.

“In October of 2010, allegations were raised against Mr. Williams,” according to a written statement of the church’s Board of Directors. Those allegations included, “inappropriate contact with one teenager attending the church’s youth program.”

Church officials reported the allegations to Auburn police and Williams was fired from his position with the church, according to the board’s statement.

Williams no longer attends services at the church. The alleged victim, who was a longtime member of the church, stopped attending services and participating in youth activities.

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