CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Thomas McConnell will resume his ministry as a Deacon at St. Jude Catholic Church in Chattanooga. On Wednesday, a Hamilton County grand jury dismissed sexual battery claims against McConnell. The charges originated in early March, when he was videotaped inside a Chattanooga restaurant by a couple who believed he was touching a five-year-old girl in an inappropriate manner. The girl was later revealed to be McConnell's granddaughter.
Saturday, Bishop Richard F. Stika released a statement announcing that McConnell, who had been suspended by the church when the allegations surfaced, has been restored to his position.
McConnell is also the director of the Hamilton County Schools' JROTC program, and was suspended without pay from that position as well. Sources inside the school district tell Eyewitness News that Superintendent Rick Smith is likely to reinstate McConnell to his post during the next week.
Here is the statement from Bishop Stika:
Bishop Richard F. Stika has removed the suspension of Deacon Tom McConnell, who now is able to resume his full diaconal ministry after a Hamilton County grand jury found sexual battery accusations against Deacon McConnell to be baseless.
Grand jurors dismissed the claims against Deacon McConnell, returning a No True Bill earlier this week after evaluating the facts and hearing his testimony. Deacon McConnell has maintained his innocence during the legal proceedings.
Bishop Stika said he was saddened that Deacon McConnell had to endure the false accusations and public scrutiny. Deacon McConnell serves at St. Jude Church in Chattanooga.
"In accordance with Canon law and diocesan policy and the fact that the cause for suspension has ceased, effective April 19, 2012, I am removing the aforementioned suspension and restoring your faculties," Bishop Stika said.