Tavares police arrested a self-proclaimed “volunteer pastor” on a charge of lewd and lascivious molestation of an elderly or disabled person. Gary C. Cotterill was booked and released on $5000 bond after police received an anonymous complaint indicating that Cotterill engaged in inappropriate touching of an Alzheimer’s patient in an assisted living facility. The complaint alleged that Cotterill placed his hand down the backside of the victim’s pants during a sermon. The person who reported the behavior indicated that this was not an isolated incident but an ongoing pattern of abuse.
Other witnesses substantiated the incident and agreed that this was not an isolated incident. Robert Chubboy confirmed that Cotterill placed his hand on the victim and saw the victim’s “pants moving up and down as if being rubbed.” Another witness also confirmed that Cotterill rubbed the victim’s buttocks over the victim’s clothes. Cotterill disputed the allegations saying that he had never touched the alleged victim in an inappropriate way. Cotterill also contends he has never touched the victim’s breasts, buttocks or groin. Cotterill concedes he has close contact with individuals as a function of his role as a pastor but that there is nothing sexual in the way he touched the victim. However, he also conceded he is not “currently” an ordained minister.
An employee of the facility also substantiated reports that Cotterill has engaged in inappropriate contact with the victim. The employee said that she saw Cotterill bent over the victim and caressing her all over her body. When the employee confronted Cotterill, he stammered and indicated that the victim was cold so he was “warming her up.” Other witnesses also reported seeing multiple incidents of inappropriate touching by Cotterill. On the other hand, Cotterill works with another facility that confirmed there has never been any complaint or concern about Cotterill’s conduct. Because the victim is an Alzheimer’s patient, police said she is unable to remember or articulate whether Cotterill has touched her in an inappropriate way.
According to Florida criminal lawyer John Musca, Florida law makes it a third degree felony to engage in lewd or lascivious molestation of an elderly or disabled person. Musca explained a key issue in such a case is whether the accused knows or should know the elderly or disabled person lacks the capacity to consent or fails to consent. “The prosecutor in a case involving an Alzheimer’s patient may argue that the accused knew that the patient’s mental capacity for consent was compromised yet disregarded the patient’s condition,” Musca said. “An experienced Florida criminal lawyer may use expert medical testimony regarding the alleged victim’s medical condition and his or her ability to consent.”