Former minister charged in molestation case

By Joe VanHoose

Athens Banner-Herald

October 15, 2009

A former Oglethorpe County youth minister who was acquitted three years ago of charges that he molested a teenage girl was arrested last week, once again on child molestation charges.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents and Oglethorpe County sheriff's deputies arrested Norman Anthony Pugh, 43, on charges of aggravated child molestation, sexual exploitation of a child, electronically furnishing obscene material to a minor and making obscene telephone calls to a child involving a different victim.

Pugh, a truck driver who served previously as the youth minister for Arnoldsville Baptist Church, is held at the Oglethorpe County Jail without bond, Sheriff Mike Smith said.

GBI agents would not release details on the case or information about the victim, other than that she is younger than 14 years old.

Agents hope to finish their investigation by the end of the week, said Chris Bish, assistant special agent in charge of the Athens office of the GBI.

"We are still doing interviews," Bish said. "There is possibly more to it."

An Oglethorpe County Superior Court jury acquitted Pugh in November 2006 on charges that he molested a 14-year-old girl while he was the Arnoldsville church's youth minister.

Pugh's defense attorney, David Crowe, focused on inconsistencies in the victim's story during the trial. Crowe pointed out that she had told the church pastor, Nathan Palmer, that Pugh touched her breasts and genital area through her clothes but later told investigators that he reached under her clothes.

Dozens of family and church members rallied around Pugh after the first arrest. Palmer's wife posted bond for Pugh, and church members lined up in the courtroom to hug Pugh after he was acquitted.

Pugh was no longer working for the church when he was arrested last week, Smith said.

SNAP Note: Arnoldsville Baptist Church is shown as an SBC-affiliated church.