Former Tenn. pastor faces 47 counts of child sexual abuse

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC/Gray News) - Ronnie Gorton, the former pastor of Awakening Church in Atoka, sat in a Tipton County courtroom showing no emotion as prosecutor, Walt Freeland, laid out his case in opening statements.

Ronnie Gorton, the former pastor of Awakening Church in Atoka, is on trial for alleged sexual abuse of teens. He is shown in a March 2018 photo. (Source: WMC/Gray News)

Jurors were cautioned they would be hearing some “extremely graphic” testimony relating to child sexual abuse. Gorton’s defense attorney, Blake Ballin, told jurors to use their common sense, there is no DNA, nothing that directly connects Gorton to the crimes.

Three teens, one younger than 13 at the time of the crimes, have accused the former pastor of rape. Two of them testified Monday, coming face to face with Gorton.

He is being tried on 47 counts of child sexual abuse, including 16 counts of statutory rape.

The victim who was younger than the age of 13 at the time of the alleged crimes came from a broken home and lived for several months in the Gorton home with Gorton, his youth pastor and Gorton’s wife.

One teen, who said he was 14 at the time, was invited to the Gorton home along with another teen in 2017. That teenager said Gorton gave them alcohol and showed them pornography.

Another witness said the youngest victim told him what was happening and they went to police.

Another witness testified Gorton threatened suicide after that and admitted to his friend that he did what he is accused of and he didn’t want to go to jail.

Authorities started investigating Gorton in February 2018, which led to indictments.

This is the first of three separate trials for each of the alleged victims.

On Tuesday,Gorton’s wife at the time is expected to testify, as well as the victim who was younger than the age of 13 at the time of the crimes.

The case is expected to wrap up Tuesday.

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