Criminal charges have been dropped against a former associate children’s minister at The Village Church, a Dallas-area evangelical megachurch.
Matt Tonne was indicted for indecency with a child involving sexual contact in January 2019 and has denied the charges against him.
The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office moved to dismiss the charges against Tonne last week, according to court documents. The motion — signed by Sherre Thomas, an assistant district attorney of Dallas County — states that, despite an investigation, “the complainant cannot and has not positively identified defendant as the person who committed this offense.”
A young woman who attended The Village Church while growing up has accused Tonne of sexually assaulting her at a 2012 church camp she attended when she was 11. Now an adult, she sued the Village Church for gross negligence and emotional distress last year, seeking $1 million in damages.
J. Mitchell Little of Scheef & Stone, who is one of the woman’s lawyers, said that the district attorney did not speak to his client before dismissing the charges.
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Stone said that his client “stands ready” to identify Tonne.
“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 said.
Stone said the lawsuit against The Village Church is moving forward. He told Religion News Service that he expects a jury trial in 2021.
Tonne’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
In an email Monday (Aug. 31) to its members, The Village Church shared the news that the charges had been dismissed. The church also shared resources like crisis lines, contact information for its care department and local counseling referrals for those who might need them.
“We continue to pray for all involved,” the email said.
The Village Church has been posting updates about the case to its website since news of an alleged incident at the church camp broke in 2018.
In January 2019, The Village Church said it had removed Tonne from church staff the year before but did not reveal the reasons for his dismissal.
Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, later said that Tonne, who was a family friend, was fired from the church because he had been repeatedly drunk in violation of church rules.
The Village Church, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is part of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and the Acts 29 church planting network, where Chandler is president of the board of directors.
Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for Religion News Service. (Bob Smietana, RNS editor-in-chief, also contributed to this report.)
9 thoughts on “Charges Dropped Against Former Village Church Children’s Minister Matt Tonne”
This is a travesty of justice. Tonne was indicted by a grand jury in 2018, so there was enough evidence then. Dallas County DA John Creuzot’s office is known for rejecting or dismissing cases that should be tried. Those of us living in Dallas County cannot WAIT to vote him out in 2022.
With that being said, a dismissal is not a pronouncement of innocence. It is simply a choice of the ADA to not prosecute. I have been contacted by former Village Church members who have stated that there is a call to repentance for having doubted Tonne’s innocence. What does this communicate to his victim, as well as other victims of sexual abuse?
I wrote a blog post not long after Tonne’s arrest in Jan 2019. http://noedenelsewhere.com/two-matts-and-tweets-that-dont-age-well/. Tonne attempted suicide in May 2018, around the time he was identified as the perpetrator. That does not sound like the actions of an innocent man, but rather one who knew he was about to face the consequences of his actions. The Village Church bungled the entire process, spinning a story that Tonne was fired for alcohol abuse. They never disclosed that he was under investigation for child sexual assault, until Nov 2018 when he was indicted and it became a matter of public record.
I hope and pray that the civil trial results in many more facts being made known to the public in regards to how the victim and her family have been treated by TVC, as well a judgment in favor of the victim. She deserves no less.
Anna, I think I remember reading that Village Church also had members on the inside of the DA and police departments who might seek to influence these decisions. Do you know if this is true?
I do not have knowledge of that, but will see what I can find out. Thanks! (FYI we do know they have connections with the Dallas Morning News)
There’s a presuming of innocence until proven guilty in our system, but you have played judge, jury, and executioner in this case. I personally have no more details of this case or the local politics involved than Julie as provided, apparently you do. But goodness, what if this man is innocent? His life is destroyed, no matter the outcome.
Your claim that “innocent people don’t attempt suicide” is false. Many innocent people do commit suicide because of the hell that is brought upon them by false charges and an accuser trying to make a name for themselves.
Whether this man is guilty or not is a matter for the civil courts, now, and not you. If you have a dirty prosecutor in your area then you should call for an internal investigation – you don’t have to wait until 2022 to find this out.
In a world of “believe all women” and most of the time they are telling the truth with these things, what a thing to lie about. But we do have to accept the fact that there are those who, at times, aren’t telling the truth and have other motives.
Which is why, we have “innocent until proven guilty.”
Pray you are never on the receiving end of such a thing.
Agreed. Read that comment and it lost any credibility for Anna. Anna, you should apologize for that statement.
Your comment about the accused attempting suicide as an indication of guilt makes your whole insinuation that that the accusation is evidence of guilt causes your entire statement to have no credibility. In the world in which we live in false accusations of that nature can cause some men such a sense of despair that they may attempt suicide. I am quite certain that some of us know of others who attempted suicide from accusation of stealing or mismanagement or being rejected. So is now a suicide attempt an evidence of a crime. Apparently you think so. Your entire statement sounds more like the premise of “Believe all Women!” Over Innocent until proven guilty. Which unfortunately has infected the entire judicial system. Especially in these type of cases and even more so infecting every Christian Ministry. Their may be some grounds for a valid case. But, always a good principle to practice to expect indisputable overwhelming evidence and wonder how and why what brought the circumstances that led up to this case happening in the first place. Many of the accusations that Julie reports of often make me wonder if something else is behind these stories and this is one of those cases.
We do not wait to say someone molested a child until he is convicted in court, and many guilty people never are. The presumption of innocence is a legal concept, meaning that in court the burden of proof is on the government to produce evidence showing the person committed the criminal act, rather than on him to show he did not do it. It does not apply to, for example, letting someone continue to be a nursery worker after you have caught him sodomizing a child. I do not know what the evidence is in the Tonne case, but it sounds odd to dismiss at this stage, and odder still not to contact the witness before saying the witness will not testify. I am writing a scholarly paper on errant prosecutors, and this might be a good example for me. If anyone has details, please let me know at [email protected]. (An example in the public eye now is General Flynn’s case in Washington. The Justice dept. wanted to dismiss charges that he lied to FBI agents, because it turned out he didn’t and was wrongly prosecuted. Federal law requires them to explain dismissal to the judge, which they did with a 20-page memo. The judge is now refusing to let charges be dismissed until he investigates the Justice Dept, and that has caused a big fuss since he is obviously out to get the defendant for political reasons.)
You are correct. And of course if there is a serious concern about someone they should have no business being near children, court or no courts. The details of this case and why the charges are dropped is very perplexing. But it seems that Anna is rushing to judgement. In my view she seems to be more interested in revenge than justice. Tonne’s career life is pretty much over for him, even if he is innocent. Who will hire him?
I remember the old story about Billy Graham being falsely accused, and he asked to speak to the women directly. Which he did, and told her, something to the effect, “you and I both know that what you are saying is not true. You will damage the Kingdom if you continue to lie about this.”
What Tonne has done or not done, is a matter for the civil courts, now. Justice should always be demanded. But it should be blind. Sadly so many of us seem to forget that and judge for ourselves the actions, motives, and guilt, with little to no evidence.
If the Church took our role more seriously, we wouldn’t be in these kinds of messes, or at least not as many messes, that we are in today. Julie has done a fair job pointing these kinds of egregious actions out over the years. And yet we, the Church, seem to continue on, covering up and turning blind eyes when we should be holding our own accountable.
As we continually fail, people keep demanding justice. And when justice is continually denied, then people take matters, and judgements, into their own hands.
If we want our country to operate, as it should, then we should hold ourselves, our Churches (in our case) and our Courts, accountable.
But we do not.
Why is it that Christian women today are always telling the truth while Christian men are not?
And why is it that the Churches which have such problems are mega-Churches?
Waiting now for christian reporters to accuse Matt Chandler, then the Church’s other pastors, then the Church elders, of being guilty of sexual cover-ups, pastor’s exorbitant salary, his lifestyle, etc, etc.
Welcome to the age of mega-Church Pastors being tried, found guilty, and then punished to pieces by “christian” media.
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