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Poway Karate Studio Owner Pleads Not Guilty to Unlawful Sex with Minor Charges

Josh Thomas Churchill, 31, was ordered held on $1 million bail and faces 21 years in prison if convicted

Photo Credit: Dave Ellrod/EllrodImages
Photo Credit: Dave Ellrod/EllrodImages
Written by Kelly Wheeler/City News Service

A Poway karate studio owner who's accused of having unlawful sex with a girl over a three-year period pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to more than four dozen counts of sexual assault on a minor.

Josh Thomas Churchill, 31, was ordered held on $1 million bail and faces 21 years in prison if convicted of the 52 counts, said Deputy District Attorney Lisa Fox.

Churchill -- the owner and operator of United Studios Self Defense Karate Studio on Poway Road—also faces an additional assault count for allegedly attacking the victim's father.

Churchill was initially held on $25 million bail following his arrest Thursday on suspicion of 500 charges, including oral copulation, sodomy and lewd acts on a child.

"Basically our office reviews the documents and the investigation that we are provided by law enforcement -- the Sheriff's Department in this case," Fox said outside court. "We review the evidence and we file the charges that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury at this time."

Fox encouraged anyone who thinks they may have been victimized by the defendant to contact the Sheriff's Department.

Churchill, who is married, is accused of having unlawful sex with the girl at various locations, including the karate studio, sheriff's Lt. Jeffrey Duckworth said.

Fox would not say how old the girl was when the alleged sexual assaults occurred, nor provide her current age.

Judge David Szumowski ordered Churchill to have no contact with the alleged victim and her father, whom the defendant is charged with assaulting about two weeks ago.

Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong told reporters that the complaining witness filed a restraining order against Churchill, then he filed one against her because she allegedly kept texting him after the order was put in place.

"He's scared to death," Armstrong said of his client. "He's never been in jail before a day in his life."

Armstrong said Churchill—a black belt in karate—doesn't want to use that skill in jail against someone who might try to attack him.

Churchill will be back in court July 1 for a readiness conference and July 17 for a preliminary hearing.

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