Two men claim martial arts instructor Tommy Merritt sexually assaulted them
Two men claim martial arts instructor sexually assaulted them
Fulton (WSYR-TV) - According to court papers, two men claimed Fulton martial arts instructor Tommy Merritt performed sexual acts on them at his former studios while they were young. The men are now 17 and 24-years-old.
Merritt offered his apology today, saying he is "truly sorry" for what he calls a "mistake," but adds, "I never forced anyone into doing anything."
The 17-year-old told police that Merritt performed a sexual act on his as recently as August 14, according to court papers. He also claims the abuse started when he was 13 years old and happened often at Merritt's old studios, one on Oneida Street and another on North Second Street.
The boy said, "[I] cannot remember the exact dates or times of any of the incidents before I was seventeen. This has occurred about 100 or 200 times."
Merritt was charged for those incidents, but the documents also contain information about another man who alleges Merritt also started touching him while he was young. The now-24-year-old man is quoted saying, "I know that he does this stuff to other kids that he is teaching. I have to tell this to the police to clear my conscious because I know this is going to screw up other kids' lives like it did to me."
In his statement, Merritt admits to relationships with his students. "At that point, he offered himself sexually in exchange for money, of which I did. The boy was 15 at this time," he said in one excerpt.
He also admits to having sexual relations with other students, but claims he waited until they were of age.
It appears Merritt paid for the sex acts, and says the students used the money for drugs. The 17-year-old admits he was never forced to do anything, but he claims he was still 13 when it started - which is a crime.
Both men quoted in the case they were manipulated into thinking that this was normal.
"We're going to make sure we cover all bases and uncover all stones," said Fulton Deputy Chief Tom Abelgore. "Ensure that we try to get victims to come forward, give them that opportunity as we try to build as good of a case as we can against Merritt."
Currently, Merritt is only charged for incidents with the now-17-year-old, but the investigation is continuing and police say it could have a very large scope. Merritt has taught in Fulton for many years, at locations on Oneida Street, North Second Street, South First Street, and South Fourth Street. Fulton Police want to hear from anyone who thinks their child was exposed to inappropriate behavior. Anyone who is concerned can call Fulton Police at 598-4504.
Fulton martial arts instructor arrested for child sex acts
Fulton (WSYR-TV) - A Fulton martial arts teacher is accused of of committing a criminal sex act and endangering the welfare of a child. Tommy Merritt, 38, was arrested Thursday after a boy came forward and claimed the inappropriate contact had been going on for years.
Merritt's studio, called Fight Science, is located on South First Street in Fulton.
Fulton Deputy Police Chief Tom Abelgore says he used to run another studio on Oneida Street. The police told NewsChannel 9 that the sex acts started in 2005 and the victim, a male, was 13 years old at the time. Police say they continued until 2009. The investigation began when the boy, who is now an 18-year-old man, and his family, went to police.
"He was somewhat of a prominent person in the community. He works with children. Obviously there are concerns when you talk about charges like that," Abelgore said.
Merritt founded the National Taekwondo Union and was president of the Worldwide Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
"We do have some concerns there are additional victims at this point," Abelgore said. "Obviously he is the owner of a karate business, he does have contact with children from 8, 9 years old to 18, 18-plus."
The Chief said the sex acts took place at several locations. There are indications that some took place in the studio, but the Chief said that is still under investigation.
At this time, Merritt is still in jail on $30,000 bail.
According to the Taekwondo Union's website, Merritt works with kids at local schools and teaches self-defense to children.
Fulton Police want to hear from people who have concerns or think their children were exposed to inappropriate behavior. Anyone with any information on the case, call (315) 598-4504.