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Archive for Thursday, October 2, 2008

Woman testifies she had illicit sex with church youth director

October 2, 2008

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He was a mentor, a trusted youth leader, but on Wednesday a 24-year-old woman took the stand in Douglas County District Court, describing an inappropriate sexual relationship she said the man had with her, beginning when she was 15 years old.

"I think we both understood it was unspoken, that we couldn't tell anyone," the woman testified.

The woman's testimony came during the first day of trial for a former youth director of a Lawrence church.

The man, who is now 38, faces one charge of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, in connection with a three-year sexual relationship with a former member of his youth group.

"I was just head over heels in love with him. It was my first kiss. I was very attracted to him. I trusted him and respected him entirely," the woman testified.

The sexual abuse is reported to have started in 1999. The victim said their relationship began even earlier and included inappropriate sexual contact at a youth retreat after other members of the group had gone to sleep.

The woman waited nearly nine years to report the crime to police.

"I knew there would be really harsh consequences," she said.

She testified she decided to come forward after learning the defendant, who had moved to California to attend seminary, was about to be ordained as a Lutheran pastor and accept a job in Manhattan, Kan.

"I, more than anything, wanted to keep other people safe from him," she said. "I was afraid he was going to have another pool of people to pick from."

But Defense Attorney John Kerns told jurors during opening statements that they'll have to decide whether a crime was committed. Kerns admitted his client had a sexual relationship with the woman but argued it occurred after she had reached the legal age to give consent.

"Call him a jerk, call him immature, call him whatever four-letter word you want, but you can't call him a criminal," Kerns said. "You can't label him a criminal because no crime has occurred."

Kerns told jurors the defendant and his wife are both expected to testify during the trial.

The Journal-World generally does not publish the names of sex crime suspects unless they are convicted.

Testimony in the case is scheduled to resume today.

Comments

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

The point of laws regarding "age of consent" is that younger people don't have the best judgement, and may not have the maturity to engage in informed consent.It is, of course, arbitrary to say that 16 is old enough and 15 isn't, but that is the law.Her perspective is not really the issue.Also, again, he was the youth leader - what kind of leadership is this?He should be convicted of statutory rape, and sentenced accordingly. Also, he shouldn't be in any position which involves unsupervised contact with minors.

Christine Pennewell Davis 6 years, 2 months ago

wait and see I have a feeling we have not heard all the facts. Their is never a reason for a 27+ year old to have sex with a minor put also never should the young lady/man wait 9 years to report. i know at 15 she might have been a little afraid and or in love but by the time she hit 18 or 19 she should have realized it was wrong and said something. Shame and blame to go all around.

jonas_opines 6 years, 2 months ago

"I'm not saying this guy wasn't an idiot for having sex with this girl. He clearly was. ANd it was definitely wrong of him. However, if I were on the jury I'm not sure I could convict him. Based on her comments and attitude in the above article, she is partially repsonsible.This has overtones of a "woman scorned" type thing."It might, but it might also have the overtones of a "woman in fear" type thing. This is all speculative, and in the end totally irrellevent. As jafs said before, this is precisely the reason that we have age laws in regards to consenting relationships. It is INEVITABLE that in this relationship there will be unequal power and unequal understanding. Whatever the motives of the older man (and I'm sorry, but it's very difficult, as a 30 year old man, to see possible attraction to a 15 year old based on compatability or conversation) the girl will be in a compromised position. The man is infinitely more experienced, more cultivated, and the girl will become a victim of the imbalance. I'm sure she thought she was in love, with a strong, authority figure of a man interested in her, to the exclusion of the others in whatever youth group they were in. It was her first love, as she says, and I think some of us perhaps remember the level of rationality we brought to our first love, especially at the ripe age of 15.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 6 years, 2 months ago

This is not a "womand scorned" situation. This is a "child scorned" sitation. She was traumatized by him, so if she's pissed that he dumped her and married another; I say she SHOULD be pissed.I don't care WHAT the age of consent is: if a 27 year old has sex with a 15 (or 16) year old and doesn't get some mental health treatment, he's not ready to be in ministry. This guy needs to get some help instead of trying to be "help" to others.

stonesend32 6 years, 2 months ago

Alright originalCA, I've just been observing all the discussion but I have to comment on your reply. I was a member of the church as well throughout this entire process. This man was brought up by several members of the congregation because they didn't like that he was suggesting that the youth group make their own choices about their faith, rather than just accept what their family tells them to be. He wasn't shoving ideas down their throat, rather helped them make their own educated decisions. No one was ever ran out of the church, and if you left, you left of your own accord. I'm not excusing anything that this man did, however stating that he is a jerk clearly means that you didn't know this man. It sounds like your son didn't like him and therefore you decided you didn't either. He was as far from a jerk as possible and served as a great mentor for many people who are now making wonderful additions to the community you now live in. I do find it humorous that you say you suspected a relationship, and said and did nothing about it, yet now you pass judgement. Sounds like maybe you turning a blind eye contributed to the problem.

worker_bee 6 years, 2 months ago

her objective has already been achieved. whether convicted or not it will be very difficult for him to be ordained or hired in most churches now.

KansasVoter 6 years, 2 months ago

I agree with everyone who said that this sounds like a woman scorned situation. I don't think that any crime was committed, and I think that this is a waste of our tax dollars.

somebodynew 6 years, 2 months ago

The question I have is just why the DA office chose to prosecute this case. The only information I have on this case is what I have read in the LJW, and I know that is not trustworthy for telling the entire picture - BUT I know there have been cases presented to them with better evidence that they have refused prosecution on. Just why is this one so compelling to prosecute.I am NOT saying the guy was right, he isn't, but there are a lot of other similar cases not being brought due to "lack of evidence". And yes I understand the position of control posture, but if what is written is all they have, then I say something is wrong.And again, I know I am basing my opinion just on what I have read here and that is not a good thing, since I don't think the LJW actually has reporters attending hearings.

TheOriginalCA 6 years, 2 months ago

stonesend, we got lots of hate email and postal mail. The point you bring up is just PART of the controversy and yes.,we DID get run out of the church. My son was also excluded by this director because the director by his own admission did not believe that all youth should be included in every activity. We never turned a blind eye, we were very up front and were concerned that THREE girls were being abused by this guy. YOu must not have been present at that meeting where my family was humiliated in front of a large group of congregation menbers. Now if that is not being run out of church, then I dont know what is. WHo would go to a church where no one speaks to you or who treats your family like dirt and stabs you in the back and attacks you as parents because they dont like the way your schizophrenic child behaves? My oldest son wanted to be invloved with youth activities yet was excluded from most of them. Also, great mentors DON"T tell kids to shut the hell up, they don't sleep with a teenage girl out on a boat on a youth trip while the rest of the members sleep on shore unattended. If that is great mentoring, then I am the idiot you state above. We DID complain that they were spending time at night behind closed doors and that was not in the best of practices. It is the core group at church "Mrs Z" who was leadning the charge in running us out.. yes.. we got hateful mail from her too.

Shardwurm 6 years, 2 months ago

If the sexes were reversed and this was a 15-year-old boy having sex with a 27-year-old female he'd be getting high-fives.

Deja Coffin 6 years, 2 months ago

I agree PapaB. He's claiming that the relationship happened once she was of age. While that may save him in the court of law, it doesn't make up for the fact that he was a mentor and took advantage of their relationship in the church. I hope that if this man is found innocent, churches looking to hire him will learn of his poor judgement. But ultimately, I hope that if she was underage, the punishment fit the crime. I was the young girl that dated the older guys and thought it was cool. Now being of age and sound mind, I not only wonder what the heck was I think but I really think, how on earth could a guy in his 20's really think he has anything in common with a 15-16 year old. I think we'll just turn Amish once my daughters become teenagers.

Steve Jacob 6 years, 2 months ago

9 years ago, and she was in love with him. I just don't see much of a crime. You have to know this might come back to bite you when you do stuff like this. But now being pastor is probably out.

dandelion 6 years, 2 months ago

To those who are blaming the girl: Would you be willing to let this guy be a pastor in your church and minister to your daughter? If he had been 18-20 and not in a position of authority, I would say leave him alone, but he was old enough to know better.

Buggie7 6 years, 2 months ago

Ummm Bizarre did you read the article???? It says he admitted to a sexual relationship. Geez read before you post.

50YearResident 6 years, 2 months ago

When the Church is involved it is the girls fault, but if it was a Teacher everything is then the fault of the Teacher. What is the differance?

Shardwurm 6 years, 2 months ago

Nah Papa...doesn't matter if she's hot.When you're a 15-year-old male a watermelon is hot.

taiwantea 6 years, 2 months ago

A church is a business just like any other. It happens everywhere sooner or later. There is always bad apples in a bunch, but he was the adult and she was the kid. Is he really a criminal, or does he have some serious issues that need to be resolved? Why is it all coming to a head now?

missmia 6 years, 2 months ago

she never admitted it being consensual- just because she was "head over heels in love with him" doesn't mean it was consensual.

alm77 6 years, 2 months ago

Raider, it's my understanding the statute of limitation is 7 years, but that limit doesn't begin until the victim turns 18.

TheOriginalCA 6 years, 2 months ago

I know who this is. I can tell you all that my wife and I complained about this guy and what appeared to us as him being irresponsible and suspecting him of having a relationship with this girl. They would be behind closed doors LATE at night in the youth room. There was a certain core group in our church who not only saw nothing wrong with any of this, they ran us out of the church rather forcefully. ANYONE who dared complain about this guy was toast in that church!! This church was going through a great deal of turmoil and change at this time and there was no pastor who was full time during this time, so this is why that core group was able to be such a force. This was the church that my wife grew up in and her family grew up in and we got married in. This guy is a jerk from the word "Go" and is as arrogant as they come. When they ran us out of the church, they had an emergency meeting with the congregation and singled out my wife and I in a "How DARE they complain about our golden boy!!" type of attitude. They dared to bring up our son by name, who was still in high school, and then told him that they forgave him after this meeting. I then jumped in and put my foot down and said, "forgive him for WHAT?" He did nothing wrong except complain about the behavior of his youth leader. Before you all characterize this youth leader as a stereotypical christian conservative whacko, let me tell you that he is as liberal and as "open" as they come and had a Darwin on the back of his car, so I can tell you that he fits the anti christ mentality of most of Lawrence.

classclown 6 years, 2 months ago

somebodynew (Anonymous) says:The question I have is just why the DA office chose to prosecute this case. The only information I have on this case is what I have read in the LJW, and I know that is not trustworthy for telling the entire picture - BUT I know there have been cases presented to them with better evidence that they have refused prosecution on. Just why is this one so compelling to prosecute======================================Because he doesn't play basketball?

bizarre 6 years, 2 months ago

where is the proof there was sex act? Was there a pregnancy or disease transfer.Perhaps it was just infatuation without sex.Why do people just assume if there is love there is sex?

whatupdown 6 years, 2 months ago

Lets see her pic and his name, why not. So he was picking fruit in the wrong garden, whatever, sex and usa are so paranoid and freaky, or should I say he was planting seeds in the wrong garden unless her name is Eve?

jonas_opines 6 years, 2 months ago

Oh, a church leader abusing his authority and position, and having relationships with a minor.. . . . shocking. Bizarre: She was 15, he, at the time, was 27 or so. What else is there to know?

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

And, it kind of surprises me to see so many posts blaming the girl and defending the man.What does that mean?Do a lot of you think it's ok for adult males to have sex with underage females?

geniusmannumber1 6 years, 2 months ago

Wow. Two people have made comments along the lines of "Maybe we don't have all the facts." That's an insanely high average for the commenters here. Congratulations.

PapaB 6 years, 2 months ago

The big problem I see is that the relationship was started while he was in a position of authority/power over her. He crossed a line he shouldn't have and whether intended or not, he abused his authority.

jonas_opines 6 years, 2 months ago

Shardwurm: That's true. Were you operating under the impression that we practice equality in our social relationships and their results?

bialekkson 6 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

bad_dog 6 years, 2 months ago

I don't believe a 15 year old girl can lawfully "consent" to a sexual relationship in most jurisdictions. That is why such acts are often described as "statutory" rape rather than forcible rape. In this case the charge is aggravated indecent liberties. The charge reflects both the nature of the allegations and her age.http://www.kscoplaw.com/crimcode/Article35.htm#21-3504

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Actually she said that she was in love with him.And, isn't it the responsibility of an adult to act carefully when underage girls develop crushes on them? Especially since he was the youth leader??He could have waited a year or so until she was of legal age fairly easily, don't you think?

bizarre 6 years, 2 months ago

9 years later, and she admits it was consensual. She admits that they were head over heels in love.Now the dude is married. Is there more to this story we are not getting here?

bialekkson 6 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

jonas_opines 6 years, 2 months ago

"Isn't pre-marital sex against the Lutheran religion?"Haha. What does That have to do with anything? ;)

Raider 6 years, 2 months ago

Here's what I find odd:A. She admitted it was consentual, and was "head over heels in love with him".B. She waited 9 years to tell this story.C. She's clearly not acting as if she was a "victim". She's actually acting like she's proud of the fact it happened.D. She decided to tell her story after she found out the man was moving back to KS, AND found out he was married.I'm not saying this guy wasn't an idiot for having sex with this girl. He clearly was. ANd it was definitely wrong of him. However, if I were on the jury I'm not sure I could convict him. Based on her comments and attitude in the above article, she is partially repsonsible.This has overtones of a "woman scorned" type thing. If anything, the guy should get probation, and NOT have to register on the offender list. Plus, isn't there a statue of limitations on this? I'm not sure, so if one of our more knowledgable posters could answer, that would be great.

Confrontation 6 years, 2 months ago

And yet, idiots are still leaving their young children alone with church leaders. When will they ever wake up? There's a reason why many (but, not all) of these youth group leaders, priests, teachers, and others take these jobs working with children.

Sigmund 6 years, 2 months ago

beobachter (Anonymous) says: "Back to my question. Other than her allegations, what proof is there that what she claims actually occurred?"None as far as I can tell but that is all that is needed. If she is believed beyond a reasonable doubt he is a convicted felon and a registered sex offender. If not, he is a free man. Now given that these kinds of cases, many years later, are often all about the credibility of the complaining witness, read the "Rape Shield Laws."http://www.kslegislature.org/legsrv-statutes/getStatute.do?number=11751

OldEnuf2BYurDad 6 years, 2 months ago

OriginalCA and Stonesend: Air your dirty laundry in a less public place. This sort of open hostility is why people laugh at Christians. We have "found the answer" but we can't even treat each other with respect. We are filled with the Spirit, but demonstrate few of the fruits of that Spirit. Put down your keyboards - you're hurting the cause of Christ with your childish tantrums!

akt2 6 years, 2 months ago

If he liked 15 year old girls back then, he probably still does. Even if there are only allegations, that would be enough for parents to keep their daughters out of his church youth groups. Perverts are the most conniving creatures on the face of the earth.

HootyWho 6 years, 2 months ago

He was the adult,,,and should have known better,,,,

PapaB 6 years, 2 months ago

Shardwurm (Anonymous) says: If the sexes were reversed and this was a 15-year-old boy having sex with a 27-year-old female he'd be getting high-fives.-only if she's hot

TheOriginalCA 6 years, 2 months ago

OldEnuf2BYurDad (Anonymous) says: OriginalCA and Stonesend: Air your dirty laundry in a less public place......blah blah blah blah......==========================Way to leverage this as an opportunity to further your agenda. Right now our family is feeling quite vindicated... but I have already sent the board mod a request to remove my posts because it is too much info, especially my partial name dropping above....All I was trying to do here was to give some insight on the situation unil another denier of the real truth dropped by.

TheOriginalCA 6 years, 2 months ago

Stonesend32, I appreciate your last post.

TheOriginalCA 6 years, 2 months ago

mustbhiorlo (Anonymous) says: : 9 years ago:get over it, get a life, move on.============================Who said that I hadn't moved on? As stated above, I was just giving some insight which was then highjacked and discredited by someone who obviously believed only what he wanted to believe, NOW he knows the truth. I am not the criminal here, the criminal is the youth director.

stonesend32 6 years, 2 months ago

I didn't hijack your information, I merely gave you a different perspective. I don't feel like arguing with you in regards to your thoughts about the church. I do think that you are very wrong in some of your statements, but you are clearly set in your ways. Also, I don't think mustbhiorlo was talking to you specifically, but you sure did get defensive. I do think that since this was 9 years ago, we all should get over and move on with our lives.

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