On Monday, former Awakening Church worship leader Ronnie Gorton was indicted on 47 counts of sexually assaulting teenagers.
Last month, Gorton, 39, was accused of sexually assaulting at least two minors. He was indicted for incidents involving three, however.
The nearly four dozen charges included five counts of aggravated sexual battery, 17 counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, two counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child (Child Protection Act), 16 counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, two counts of exploitation of a minor by electronic means, two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, two counts of purchasing alcohol for a child and one count of rape.
Tipton County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Billy Daugherty said one of the victim’s ages at the time of the abuse was the aggravating factor in the first set of sexual battery charges.
“The nature of these charges clearly indicate the victims, at some point, were under the age of 13. The age of consent in Tennessee is 18,” he said.
The case is a multijurisdictional investigation.
“There’s an allegation in the county and an allegation in Atoka,” he said on Feb. 2. “But there’s nothing to indicate anything took place at the church.”
According to an affidavit, Gorton told a friend he wanted to kill himself when faced with the initial allegations.
Daugherty said allegations of sexual conduct are always alarming, but “extra alarming” when they involve someone in a position of authority.
Gorton is currently being held under a $500,000 bond.