TRAVERSE CITY — Five men claimed a former Long Lake Church pastor drugged and assaulted them, but the case heads to circuit court with fewer charges and two accusers.
A fifth accuser came forward earlier this month, claiming he was sexually assaulted by 41-year-old Christopher Cox. The accusations led Grand Traverse County prosecutors to build the case to include 10 charges.
But prosecutors dropped four charges before binding the case over from 86th District Court to 13th Circuit Court in a preliminary exam Tuesday.
Cox will face six charges involving two accusers when he appears for his first circuit court hearing in Traverse City on June 28, including two first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges, one possession of methamphetamine count and three child sexually abusive materials possession charges, according to Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg.
“Mr. Cox maintains his innocence on the balance of the counts,” said Paul Jarboe, Cox’s attorney. “We’ll start preparing for trial.”
One man told investigators Cox showed up at his Quality Inn hotel room in Traverse City Dec. 2 with alcohol, meth and what appeared to be water. The man smoked meth and drank shots of booze that Cox later said he laced with GHB, commonly known as the date rape drug, according to court records.
The man said he became “nearly paralyzed” before Cox began assaulting him. The man screamed and tried to escape, records show.
A second man claimed Cox reached out to him through Facebook March 12, telling him he sought a “drug buddy,” promising drugs and women if he came to his house, according to records. Those records list the man as homeless, staying at Safe Harbor and addicted to drugs.
Cox gave the man meth and “CBD shots.” The combination made the man “extremely intoxicated” and Cox began sexually assaulting him over the course of several hours, records show.
A sexual assault nurse examiner noted the man suffered injuries consistent with his claims, according to records.
A Traverse Narcotics Team investigator previously testified that officers searched Cox’s 2301 N. Garfield Rd. office March 14, finding methamphetamine and a GHB “derivative.” Records show they also found glass pipes and syringes.
He faces the child porn charges after investigators seized an Apple MacBook laptop they said shows Cox searched online and viewed pornographic images of children and teenage boys, according to testimony from Michigan State Police Det. Jason Otting, an analyst in the computer crimes unit.
Jarboe said nothing shows Cox actually viewed the images himself.
“It’s the prosecutor’s responsibility to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant accessed these images,” Jarboe said. “I don’t think the evidence is there.”
Others could have accessed the laptop, he said. Moeggenberg said investigators have “circumstantial evidence” she will use at trial to show he did view the evidence.
She opened the case after police arrested Cox in Muskegon March 30. They found meth on him, as previously reported.
He faced a previous Chicago prison sentence in 2006 for delivering methamphetamine, according to records.
Moeggenberg did not rule out refiling some of the dropped charges if she finds more evidence to support it, or if any more accusers choose to testify.
“I didn’t feel like they were strong counts to bring to trial,” she said.