TRAVERSE CITY — A trial in the sexual assault case against a former Long Lake pastor could be delayed.
The Grand Traverse County prosecutor and Christopher Cox’s attorney Paul Jarboe met Friday afternoon before a judge for what was to be a final conference hearing prior to an August trial.
Instead, both sides requested 13th Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power adjourn the case for at least 30 days, pending the review of potential new evidence pulled from Cox’s electronics.
Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg will also request that Cox’s two Circuit Court cases, both involving rape allegations, be consolidated into one.
Power will likely hear both requests next week.
“The big reason is, the type of evidence is so similar,” Moeggenberg said. “It makes sense to try them both that way.”
Jarboe said he wasn’t yet sure of his response to that motion, but plans to review court rules on the subject.
Reviewing the new case — and poring through thousands of pages of text messages, pictures and Snapchats from Cox’s phone and other electronics — should prove a time-consuming endeavor, Moeggenberg said.
“We both realize there’s a lot of stuff for us to go through,” Moeggenberg said. “It’s gonna take some time.”
Cox’s five-day jury trial is currently set for Aug. 21-29. She hopes to see Power adjourn the trial until September or October.
Cox, a former Long Lake Church pastor and former Traverse City Christian School official, was arrested March 30 in Muskegon. Five accusers have come forward since the the first allegations.
The initial case levies two charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct against Cox, 41, stemming from accusations regarding incidents on March 21, 2019 and Dec. 2, 2018. He’s also charged with delivering methamphetamine and three counts of possessing child pornography.
The four felonies carry sentences ranging from four years to life in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. He’s charged as a habitual offender, stemming from a 2006 meth conviction out of Illinois.
The investigation began when two men told investigators Cox had lured them to his office with promises of free drugs or women and then drugged them, the Record-Eagle previously reported. They claimed that once they’d become inebriated, Cox sexually assaulted them.
One accuser, a 19-year-old man, was treated for wounds consistent with trauma after he told investigators Cox offered to be his “drug buddy,” gave him CBD oil and meth, and then sexually assaulted him, the Record-Eagle reported in April. He told investigators Cox threatened to kill him if he told anyone.
Other accounts entered into court record allege Cox gave the men drugs and alcohol laced with the date-rape drug GHB.
Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department investigators, during a March 14 search, discovered meth, GHB, glass pipes and syringes at Cox’s Traverse City office, court testimony showed.
Cox initially faced several additional charges and accusations by five men, but two were dropped. Moeggenberg dismissed cases from the two other accusers because, she said, it would be difficult to prove they did not consent to the acts.
The new case, filed in late June, brings another first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge after a third accuser changed his mind about testifying. It also levies an extortion charge recently added by Moeggenberg. The charge is based on the man’s accusation that Cox drugged and assaulted him, and videotaped the assault in his Garfield office, later to use the video to coerce another sexual encounter, according to court records.
“Obviously, it’s not easy stuff to talk about,” Moeggenberg previously told the Record-Eagle.
Jarboe declined to discuss the new case, nor his client’s defense. Cox has pleaded not guilty.
He has also argued a lack of knowledge and denied several other allegations in a civil suit filed by the nonprofit Traverse City Retreat, an organization providing recovery services to men battling addiction and mental health struggles.
Cox served as the nonprofit’s board president from July 2016-October 2018, and left on “bad terms,” according to court records.
The suit, filed in 13th Circuit Court in June, accuses Cox of keeping several of the company’s assets, including applications filed by men interested in the services and the nonprofit’s website and domain name.
Pre-trial statements in that case are due in court Aug. 6, according to court documents.
Cox remains in the Grand Traverse County jail on a $100,000 bond in the first case. His bond for the new case is $50,000, cash/surety.
Both parties will meet at 3 p.m. Aug. 1 for a status conference in the criminal cases.
See updates at www.record-eagle.com.