Accused pedophile Michael D. Whitson pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree child rape Thursday in Lewis County Superior Court and is scheduled to go to trial the week of Dec. 16.
Whitson, 51, formerly of Winlock and now living in Vancouver, has been accused of initiating a sexual relationship in 2002 with a then-12-year-old male victim while Whitson was serving as the youth pastor at Winlock Assembly of God.
The victim, now 23, told investigators last October about the relationship and explained Whitson took advantage of the victim’s regular attendance at youth parties held at the defendant’s house, as well as personal visits to talk about ongoing discord with the victim’s parents.
According to the victim’s statement to investigators, the illicit relationship began during one of the victim’s stays at Whitson’s house, at which time the accused forced himself on the victim, stating, "Just go with it," and began performing oral sex. After this encounter, Whitson began attempting to convince the victim he was gay and initiated oral and anal intercourse during most of the victim’s stays at Whitson’s house until the victim moved out of Winlock during or around 2005.
While this relationship was taking place, Whitson reportedly molested two of his young nephews in separate instances occurring in 2004 and 2005. The earlier instance involved Whitson groping his then-8-year-old nephew’s genitals while teaching him to swim, and the latter involved Whitson groping his then-9-year-old nephew’s genitals under the guise of a body massage on three separate occasions.
According to court documents, both victims indicated they were uncomfortable with Whitson’s actions at the time and Whitson even bribed the latter victim with a laser pointer to convince him not to tell anyone. The boy eventually disclosed the event in 2006 and, after the first victim came forward as well, Whitson was charged for both crimes in December of that year.
The victim in the present case was interviewed by investigators during 2006 and denied having any sexual encounters with Whitson, stating most recently he a to remain loyal to the accused and felt the two were in love. He has since indicated he understands the magnitude of what Whitson is alleged to have done to him and said the relationship with Whitson "messed [him] up a little bit," according to court documents.
Whitson’s defense against the charges in 2006 was he had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and was schizophrenic, a statement corroborated by his sister, the mother of the 8-year-old victim. He pleaded guilty in the case in 2007 to one count of assault of a minor with sexual intent and served 90 days in jail and one year of community custody.
Apart from the charges already indicated, Whitson has not been the subject of other sexual assault charges in Washington, and his current charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. He is expected to next appear in court Nov. 7 for an omnibus hearing.