A former volunteer youth leader at a Vancouver church made his first appearance in court Tuesday afternoon on suspicion of inappropriate sexual conduct with two teenage boys.
Jason Lee Wolk, 25, of Vancouver will be arraigned next month on one count of second-degree sexual molestation and four counts of third-degree child molestation.
The sexual abuses were alleged to have taken place between June and December.
Wolk said little during his appearance before Clark County Superior Court Judge John Nichols.
Outside, however, family members of the alleged victims, boys ages 15 and 16, answered questions to express their frustration that Wolk is not in police custody. Wolk appeared Tuesday in response to a summons. He is under a specialized set of supervised release conditions that, among other things, prohibit him from having any contact with minors and require him to remain employed.
A woman who identified herself only as an aunt of the alleged teenage victims spoke to reporters in the hallway outside Nichols’ courtroom, calling it “crazy” that Wolk was not in jail.
“Jason, he was like part of the family,” the woman said. “He took everybody’s trust and he’s walking around free. I just don’t understand why he’s not arrested.”
Jon McMullen, Wolk’s attorney, said that his client remains out of custody because the U.S. justice system mandates he be considered “innocent until proven guilty.”
The Columbian does not name victims of sex crimes or provide details that could identify them.
Wolk’s arraignment is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on April 5. The arraignment was delayed nearly two weeks to allow McMullen to obtain and go over investigative documents.
“There’s still a lot of information the defense doesn’t have,” McMullen said.
Third-degree child molestation is a class C felony. Sexual molestation in the second degree is a gross misdemeanor.
McMullen said his client is “obviously concerned about these allegations,” but cautioned that there “are two sides to every story.”
The known side of the story is this: Two boys claim Wolk, then a volunteer youth pastor for The Wesleyan Church, inappropriately touched them during private devotions designed to help with their “Christian life walk.”
The aunt said at least one instance of abuse occurred during a church camping trip.
The 15-year-old told detectives he and Wolk read while lying on his bed with Wolk’s arm around the boy’s shoulders, according to court documents. On at least one occasion, the teen said that Wolk made him strip down to his boxers and lie in bed with him. On about five occasions, the boy told detectives, Wolk touched him inappropriately over his clothes.
A restraining order against Wolk was filed by the 16-year-old in December.
Nichols told Wolk on Tuesday that he is barred from communicating with the boys through any medium, including via a third party.
Jarod Osborne, the pastor of The Wesleyan Church, emailed a statement to The Columbian: “We are saddened by the recent events, and are reaching out to those involved. I want to clarify that Jason was never on staff at the church, and the alleged behaviors did not happen during church events or on church property. We immediately contacted the proper authorities and are in full cooperation with them.”
An investigation by the Children’s Justice Center in Clark County is ongoing. The abuse alleged to have occurred during a camping trip may have happened in Klickitat County.