Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Clergy Confession
. . . .

Clergy Confession

Man charged with molesting boy wants the evidence thrown out

Patrick Sullivan - April 8th, 2013  

After something unthinkable happened in a restroom during a service at Immanuel Baptist Church in January, one of the church-goers had something urgent to say to his pastor.

Steven William Richard, 28, had just locked a six-year-old boy (who was attending church with his grandfather) in a toilet stall and molested him, and now he wanted to make things right, at least as far as he could see it.

“I specifically said, ‘I need to speak with you in private,’” Richard said in an affidavit in his court file, of his request to his pastor, Matthew Herron. “I stated: ‘I screwed up.’ Pastor Herron asked me, ‘What did you do?’ I responded, ‘I was in the bathroom and gave a small boy a .....!” Herron would later explain in court that he next asked Richard to wait in a balcony near his office where he could keep an eye on him while he met with other churchgoers after that 10 a.m. service.

“A few minutes later the pastor came upstairs and said that he had spoken with a couple other people and they had to call the cops,” Richard said in his affidavit.

Richard, in his affidavit, describes why he thinks it’s unfair that police were called: “I did not at any time tell Pastor Herron that it was okay to call the police. I told him that I wanted to talk to the boy’s family and let them know what had happened and ask for forgiveness. I thought Pastor Herron would counsel all of us.”

MOTION TO SUPPRESS

Now Richard and his attorney, David Clark, seek to have the admissions Richard made to Pastor Herron that day and all of the evidence that stemmed from the ensuing police investigation thrown out.

Clark argues that Richard had an expectation of privacy due to “clergy-penitent” privilege, and that to prosecute him based on the information that flowed from his conversation with Herron would violate Richard’s constitutional due process rights.

On March 1, Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers ruled against Clark’s motion to suppress evidence. Now the case is on hold and the trial date has been pushed back until at least June after Clark filed a motion for leave to appeal Rodgers’ decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Richard is charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carries life in prison.

He is also charged as a two-time offender, which could mean he could receive a sentence of life without parole if he is convicted.

Richard was convicted in 2007 of committing indecent acts or liberties with a child at the United States Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He had been released from federal prison within six months of the recent incident and he was on federal probation.

SOUGHT ‘SPIRITUAL COUNSELING’

Clark maintains in his arguments that what Richard sought when he went to Herron after that service was “spiritual counseling.”

He argues that Richard should have been able to expect what he told the pastor to remain confidential.

Clark reasons that if what was discussed had remained between his client and his client’s pastor, none of the police investigation that stemmed from it would have occurred, so all of the evidence subsequently collected by Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office investigators would not have been collected.

That includes a evidence that Richard’s mother told detectives -- that her son called her while he waited for Herron in the balcony and he said: “I did it again.”

It also includes a statement Richard made to his federal probation agent at the jail after he was arrested when he said something like: “I f---ed up again.”

Clark argued he also believes DNA evidence collected from Richard and the boy during the investigation should be suppressed.

STATE LAW GOES BACK TO 1846

In her response to the motion, Noelle Moeggenberg, Grand Traverse County chief assistant prosecutor, argued that Clark got the nature of that meeting all wrong. Richard didn’t go see the pastor looking to confess or to pray. He was there looking for a way out of going back to prison.

“The defendant stated that he was worried that the grandfather would call the police and he wanted an opportunity for him to have a second chance without the police being involved,” Moeggenberg wrote.

The “clergy-penitent” privilege is laid out in two statutes in Michigan. The first was passed in 1846. The second was passed in 1949. The second one groups the clergy privilege with attorney-client and doctor-patient privilege.

The privilege appears to stem from the tradition of confession in the Catholic faith. Moeggenberg argues that according to Michigan law, use of the privilege needs to be interpreted in the context of the religion in which it is claimed.

At a hearing to decide the motion on March 1, Moeggenberg called Herron as a witness to go into detail about his meeting with Richard.

Herron testified that Baptists don’t believe in “confession” to a pastor. Rather, he said, the only entity that can come between Baptist faithful and God is Jesus, so he said people of his faith believe in making their confessions directly to Jesus.

THE SAFETY OF CHILDREN

Herron testified that he believes the safety of children is paramount in his faith.

He told Clark during cross examination:

“One of the things is that we hold the safety of children really, really highly,” he said.

Clark attempted to get Herron to discuss how clergy are exempt from child sex abuse reporting requirements, but Herron said he thought that was more of a gray area. “I don’t know that we’re exempt from it,” Herron said.

Herron said he was also concerned about Richard’s well-being. Richard’s mother was a long-time member of the church and Richard was part of a maintenance crew that sometimes worked on church property. Richard had told Herron that he was a convicted sex offender weeks earlier.

“Your concern is for the child?” Clark asked Herron.

“For the child, yeah. I mean, yeah, if I could say it, I’m not unconcerned for Steven, my heart goes out to Steven. There’s been a lot of tears shed. But I obviously was concerned about the boy.”

CONFIDENTIALITY WAIVED

At the hearing Rodgers said the fact that Richard wanted Herron to help him speak to the boy’s grandfather negated his claim to privilege.

“If the purpose of the communication with the pastor was to involve the grandfather, is that necessarily an implicit waiver of any type of reasonable expectation of confidentiality?” Rodgers asked at the hearing.

Later, in ruling against the request to suppress the evidence, he said: “This wasn’t a request for forgiveness, it wasn’t a request for guidance, there wasn’t even a request for confidentiality or privacy.”

Richard’s trial is scheduled for June 11 through 13.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 
 

 

 
 
 
Close
Close
Close