LORAIN COUNTY, Ohio -- A well-known pastor, Paul Endrei, entered a not guilty plea before a judge on Thursday morning on sexual assault related charges, and his son will likely appear soon after being charged with a single count earlier this week.
Jordan Endrei, 26, now faces one count of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
All of the charges relate to a single teenage girl who was under 18 at the time of the alleged crimes.
Paul Endrei is the founding pastor of the prominent Church on the Rise in Westlake, and his son is an assistant pastor.
Paul Endrei faces two counts of sexual battery and has also been charged with four counts of sexual imposition regarding a juvenile.
At a short arraignment in Lorain Common Pleas Court Thursday morning, Paul Endrei did not speak as his lawyer, Jack Bradley, told the judge that his client would plead not guilty.
Jordan Endrei was not arraigned, but did walk out of the courthouse with his father.
Bradley said at the courthouse that Paul Endrei would be speaking through him about the case, and added that the Endreis "welcome your prayers."
Later, Bradley said that the Endreis had cooperated with the Lorain County Children's Services investigation, and that the family was "disappointed" in its results.
Bradley said the charges that Paul Endrei engaged in the unlawful acts have unusual "gaps" for these types of alleged crimes - with some of the allegations stemming from around 2005, others around 2009, and still others in 2013.
Bradley said he is waiting to see the evidence himself, and learn if prosecutors have any DNA evidence, or witnesses who corroborate the allegations.
Last week, Jane Robertson, the interim director of Lorain County Children Services, said they were limited in what they could say, but that they were cooperating with the police in the investigation of Paul Endrei.
Thursday, regarding Jordan Endrei, Robertson said they were "aware of the investigation, have cooperated with Avon police, and will continue to do so."
An email sent to church members said:
“Pastor Paul and Jordan adamantly deny these troubling charges coming from one person … and are cooperating fully with investigators. We want to keep you up to date on the case and are writing to let you know that they will enter not guilty pleas at their arraignments.
“We anticipate that the news media will cover the arraignment and you can expect to see news stories in print, on television and online. We will continue to be open and transparent with media covering the case going forward. However, because this is a criminal case, we have to be very careful not to say anything that could jeopardize the investigation.
“These are serious charges and, as you can imagine, this is a very distressing time for all of us at the Church on the Rise. We are grateful that so many of you expressed such strong support at last Sunday’s services. We will continue to do everything we can to support Pastor Paul and his family … and we ask you to join us in prayer for a just outcome in court.”
Last week, the church issued a statement on Paul Endrei's behalf, denying the allegations, and hoping that the teenager involved receives counseling.
Paul Endrei is next due in court a week from Friday.