By Janet Jacobs and Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun
Joseph G. Dauben, 31, took the stand Thursday in his own defense in 13th District Court in Corsicana.
Dauben is on trial, charged with three counts of sexual assault and one count of indecency with a child for an incident alleged to have taken place in 2007 at Navarro Mills Reservoir at a church retreat.
On the stand, Dauben said that a 19-year-old Dallas man who accused Dauben of having taken advantage of him sexually, lied about nearly everything, including allegations that Dauben brought whiskey to the retreat, gave it to minors and then lured one of them away and had sex with him in the showers.
“The allegations from (the boy) are absolutely false,” Dauben told the jury Thursday, during one of more than a dozen outbursts that earned him at least one ringing bang of the gavel from District Judge James Lagomarsino. His own attorney, the judge, and the prosecutors asked him repeatedly to answer only the questions asked and not to elaborate, but he continued to go beyond the scope of the questions.
On the stand, Dauben explained his frustrated and impulsive testimony as passion over being falsely accused.
Dauben identified himself a publisher and investigative reporter for the Ellis County Observer who one day wants to run for president of the United States. He also hinted that the charges are related to a series of articles he did for his publication that resulted in the closure of a halfway house in Ellis County.
Dauben told the jury it was his job to speak for other people in the media, adding: “That’s why I’m being attacked so much.”
The owners of the halfway house, and his accuser, were both from Keller, which Dauben said was not a coincidence but was part of a larger conspiracy involving Ellis County politics and the criminal justice system.
The alleged incident took place when the Olive Tree Ministries of Waxahachie came to Navarro Mills for the Feast of the Tabernacle, a lakeside retreat in 2007. Dauben brought an inflatable boat that was used by various congregation members. Although his accuser said Dauben also brought a bottle of Wild Turkey whiskey, Dauben said he did not, that the 14-year-old boy took it from his father’s tent.
“I did not provide the Wild Turkey,” Dauben said. He also denied challenging the teens to a drinking game, or providing any alcohol to anyone at the retreat. He said it was the boy’s suggestion that they go out in Dauben’s boat after everyone else had gone to bed.
“It was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made,” Dauben said in yet another outburst. “I’m not afraid to admit that.”
After being chastised again, Dauben said he was the one who called off the boat trip and that after that he went to bed in his own tent. He denied going into the showers with the boy, or of having any form of sex with the boy.
“That’s absolutely 100 percent not true, I’m falsely accused,” Dauben said.
Shortly thereafter, he said the boy sent him an electronic message saying “you did something to me,” Dauben testified. He claimed he didn’t block the boy’s communications because he was “investigating” and trying to find out what he was being accused of.
Dauben said he went and told the pastor of the church, who was also an Ellis County probation officer, and the pastor told him not to worry about it. When Dauben told a colleague at the newspaper about it, he said he was told to save a copy of each of the messages and the colleague also said he’d been accused by the same boy of the same kind of act.
Certainly one of the more damning things that the prosecutors presented was a Facebook message from Dauben wherein he told the boy “I hear a shower calling,” which the boy said he interpreted as sexual.
Dauben said it’s his practice to turn on the shower and then go back and work on his computer or make phone calls while it warms up.
“I know it looks really bad,” Dauben told the jury.
Under cross examination by Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wolf, Dauben again admitted to drinking the night of the alleged assault, but claimed the alcohol was not his, rather it belonged to the alleged victim.
“I was not intoxicated to the point where I didn’t know what was going on,” he said, adding “it was wrong for anyone to be drinking out there.”
Dauben was told several times by Judge James Lagomarsino to answer questions that Wolf was posing without any additional explanation. He at times became flustered on the stand responding to Wolf’s line of questioning.
“I’m confused as to how you are asking the questions,” he said once.
Wolf questioned Dauben again about the message he sent to the alleged victim referencing the shower running, asking why he would send such a message to someone who had made an accusation against him.
“I did not mean for him to perceive it that way,” Dauben said.
Dauben also again raised his belief of a conspiracy against him for his investigative reporting in Ellis County.
“If the jury could hear what I’ve been writing about, they would understand,” he said.
“Who is after you?” asked Wolf.
“Members of the Ellis County political establishment have been wanting to get me for a long time,” he said.
He again denied anything of a sexual nature occurred with the alleged victim.
Also taking the stand Thursday were Bruce Hernandez, a friend and acquaintance of Dauben, who testified he, too, had received a threat from the alleged victim, a threat to tell police he (Hernandez) was a child molester.
However, Texas Ranger Jason Bobo testified that at no time was Hernandez a suspect in the case.
Brandy Owen, former Managing Editor of the Ellis County Observer, one of Dauben’s online newspapers, said Dauben told her that after drinking with the alleged victim and going out on the boat, that the two did go up to the bathroom area before going to the campsite, leading to another outburst by Dauben.
“What?” he was heard to exclaim from the defense table, again drawing an admonition from the judge.
Both the prosecution and defense rested their cases following Thursday’s testimony. Lagomarsino set 10 a.m. Friday for closing arguments and instructions to the jury before they begin deliberations.
Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bob Belcher may be reached by email at email@example.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com