Court orders new trial for pastor in sex case
IOWA CITY (AP) — A former Iowa pastor accused of sexually preying on female members of his congregation was improperly convicted of sexual exploitation and must receive a new trial, an appeals court ruled today.
The Iowa Court of Appeals overturned a verdict that found Patrick Edouard, former pastor at Covenant Reform Church in Pella, guilty of four counts of sexual exploitation by a counselor and one count of having a pattern or scheme to sexually exploit. An improper jury instruction undermined Edouard's defense in which he admitted to sexual conduct with the women but denied acting as their counselor, the court ruled.
Edouard, 44, has been free on bond while appealing his conviction, which was returned by a Dallas County jury last year. Under the sentence vacated Wednesday, he would have faced up to five years in prison and, upon release, a 10-year mandatory term of supervision as a sex offender.
The Iowa Attorney General's Office, which has assisted Marion County in prosecuting the case, will ask the Iowa Supreme Court to review Wednesday's decision to reinstate the conviction and
sentence, spokesman Geoff Greenwood said. But justices do not have to review the 3-0 ruling.
If the ruling stands, prosecutors would need to decide whether to retry him. At any retrial, the appeals court said that an expert witness that would help Edouard's defense must be allowed to testify after being unfairly excluded from the first.
Edouard was charged after four women complained in 2011 that he had repeatedly coerced them into having sexual relations between 2003 and 2010 while counseling them. He quit his job at the church but fought the charges. Jurors acquitted him on three counts of third-degree sexual abuse, but found him guilty on the sexual exploitation counts.
Today's decision revolved around the definition of "counseling" that jurors should have considered when deciding whether Edouard was guilty under a law designed to punish counselors and therapists who have sexual relationships with patients or clients.
The court said Judge Paul Huscher abused his discretion when he approved a broader definition of counseling in the jury instructions than should have been provided under a 2006 Iowa Supreme Court ruling.
Jurors were told that the law applied to any "counseling relationship with a clergy member established for the purpose of addressing particular mental, intrapersonal or interpersonal dysfunctions." But the court said they should have instructed that the law only applied if Edouard gave the women services "utilizing modern psychological principles and methods," a dictionary definition approved in 2006.
The judge also erred by excluding defense testimony from a forensic psychologist who was expected to argue that Edouard's interactions with the women amounted to pastoral care, not counseling, the court said. Such testimony must be allowed at any retrial.
"The issue before the jury was whether Edouard provided counseling to these women, and the expert's training and education will assist the jury in understanding the evidence and determining if Edouard did in fact counsel these women," Judge Richard Doyle wrote.
Edouard's attorneys, Gary Dickey and Angela Campbell, did not immediately return a message.