AUGUSTA — A 12-year-old girl testified Tuesday that the man who was co-director of a youth ministry group she attended touched her inappropriately in 2014 while she was in bed with the man and his wife.

The girl was the first witness called at the jury trial of Lucas Savage, 28, formerly of Clinton. He is accused of one count of unlawful sexual contact involving her that allegedly occurred in the fall of 2014 at his home.

Savage, who is represented by attorney Pamela Ames, pleaded not guilty to the charge in September 2016, and his trial began late Tuesday morning at the Capital Judicial Center.

Ames told jurors in her opening statement that Savage will take the witness stand to tell them directly that nothing sexual occurred.

“What you will find is a very disturbed girl who made this up,” Ames said. “He was a target because he’s a man.”

The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh said in his opening statement that the offense occurred one evening when the girl was staying overnight at the Savages.

Cavanaugh said Lucas Savage carried the girl to the bedroom, and while “‘spooning’ put his hand between her legs and kept it there all night.”

The trial is scheduled to run through Wednesday and Savage is expected to testify as the defense portion of the case begins.

The prosecution finished presenting its evidence Tuesday afternoon.

According to the indictment, the offense took place sometime in the period of Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, 2014, at Savage’s home in Clinton.

The investigation began after the girl told her mother in February 2016 about the incident at Savage’s home, and her mother called Maine State Police.

According to a police affidavit filed in the case, the girl identified as the victim, now 12, told her mother that Savage “had put his hand down (her) pants” and left it there when she spent a night at his home. She said Savage had touched her inappropriately “about 30 times” and that the two had exchanged “secret kisses.”

On Tuesday, she testified he kissed her “when I was with him alone in the car and in the woodshop.” She said the kisses on her cheek and forehead were unwelcome and she told him to stop.

Savage was arrested in March 2016. At the time, he was co-director of Youth Haven Ministry, a nonprofit group offering free programs for children and teens, including weekly children’s and teen hangouts, classes and activities. The ministry is affiliated with, but not part of, the Canaan Calvary Church, which provided financial support to the ministry in the past.

Conditions of bail prohibit Savage from attending that church, which he and his family have attended for a number of years.

On Tuesday, the trial began later than anticipated as attorneys wrangled over whether the prosecution could introduce certain things at trial.

After a hearing that lasted more than two hours as jurors waited in an adjacent room, Justice William Stokes ruled that discussions that occurred May 31, 2016, and June 7, 2016, involving Lucas and Kellie Savage and Pastor Al Buzzell and his wife, Margaret, were covered by the religious privilege of Maine Rule 505 and could not be used.

The rule says, in part, “A person has a privilege to refuse to disclose, and to prevent any other person from disclosing, a confidential communication made to a member of the clergy who was acting as a spiritual adviser at the time of the communication.”

Savage took the stand at that pretrial hearing, saying that he now is living with his parents in Wilton, and saying he had sought the meetings with Buzzells because they were spiritual advisors and marital counselors.

Savage’s wife, Kellie, testified both at that hearing and then in front of the jury on Tuesday afternoon, saying she had stopped living with her husband March 24, 2016, after the Department of Health and Human Services stepped in, and that she filed for divorce in late October 2016.

Kellie Savage testified she wanted the Buzzells present at the meeting.

“I wanted to remain safe, and I wanted another set of ears,” she said.

Kellie Savage testified that the girl spent some nights at their house on occasions arranged by Lucas Savage, and other times the Savages brought the girl back to their home if no one was present at the girl’s home when they were dropping her off there after some athletic or youth event.

Testimony by Kellie Savage and the girl differed on a couple of points. The witnesses are not allowed to hear each other testify in the courtroom.

Kellie Savage said she gave the girl a pair of shorts to wear while her wet clothes were being dried, and the girl said Lucas Savage handed her the shorts.

Kellie Savage said that on an overnight trip to Boston in October 2014, she, Lucas and the girl stayed in the king-sized bed in the hotel. The girl testified that she slept on the couch.

Kellie Savage said the girl slept in their bed in Clinton twice — once when the three fell asleep while watching a movie, since the only TV set was in the bedroom.

Savage also said there was another time when she woke up in the morning and found the girl in their bed on the other side of Lucas.

“I informed him that was crazy,” she said, adding that Lucas Savage told her the girl was cold and that’s how she ended up there.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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