Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

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


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.

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