ATTLEBORO, Mass. — The assistant pastor of the Grace Baptist Church and principal of the Grace Baptist Christian Academy has been charged with repeatedly molesting one of his female students.
The Rev. Jeffrey A. Nichols, 47, was ordered held in jail on $25,000 cash bail Tuesday afternoon in Attleboro.
A prosecutor said Nichols violated a position of trust by molesting one of his seventh-grade students. The incidents began in 2008 when the girl was 13 year-old and continues until June 2013.
Nichols went voluntarily to the police station for questioning on Monday. At the bail hearing, Assistant District Attorney Erin Aiello said, “He admitted to all the allegations made by the victim.”
The allegations came as a shock to church Pastor Jeff Bailey. He told The Sun Chronicle he immediately fired Nichols when Nichols told him about the allegations Monday.
Nichols, of 7 Fourth St., Attleboro, is a married father of three children whose wife is also a teacher at the school, his lawyer, Gregory DiPaolo of Fall River, said
“I had no idea. It was a complete shock,” Bailey said, adding that he never suspected anything like the behavior that has been alleged.
Bailey described Nichols as a trusted assistant for 23 years and a beloved figure at the church and school.
Nichols apparently came forward because the allegations had become known to others, Bailey said. When Nichols told him Monday, he said he told Nichols to turn himself in to the police or he would call them in the morning.
Bailey said he was close to Nichols and that he was planning to have him perform his daughter’s wedding ceremony. Bailey said his college-age son burst out crying when he found out. Other students also cried when they were told Tuesday morning.
“It’s just devastation all the way around,” Bailey said.
Bailey said he has spoken to the girl and pledged to support her “100 percent.”
Nichols, he said, was the assistant pastor, a teacher, coach and performed administrative duties.
The church congregation thought Nichols was of the highest character because of his compassion, helping out drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless people, Bailey said.
“I’m not making excuses for him. I’m just telling you,” he said.
During the bail hearing, Aiello said Nichols allegedly repeatedly indecently touched the girl and also made sexual comments to her. According to Aiello, Nichols allegedly asked her to expose herself to him and demanded sex after exposing himself to her.
“He repeatedly asked her for sexual favors,” Aiello said.
The prosecutor noted, that as a teacher and educator, Nichols was supposed to report incidents of alleged sexual assaults. “This was a violation of trust,” Aiello said. He requested $50,000 cash bail.
DiPaolo pleaded for his client’s release on pretrial probation with GPS monitoring. He said Nichols had no criminal past and would have less financial resources with no job.
Although he allegedly admitted to police that he committed the crimes, the court automatically entered an innocent plea to aggravated indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, indecent assault and battery on a child over 14, accosting a person of the opposite sex, and open and gross behavior.
If he posts bail, Judge Thomas L. Finnigan ordered that Nichols be monitored by a GPS bracelet. Judge Finnigan also ordered Nichols to have no contact with the girl or minor children.
The allegations were reported to police by the girl on Monday and were investigated by detectives Steven Beaudet, Kevin Fuoco and Sgt. Brett Poirier. They were assisted by officers James Miller and Keith Golden. Nichols is due back in court Feb. 13.
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