DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that the sexual exploitation convictions of a former Pella pastor will stand.
The court's ruling Friday reverses a previous decision by the Iowa Court of Appeals, The Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/WqC0Jl ). The lower appeals court found that Patrick Edouard deserved a new trial because an improper jury instruction undermined his defense.
Edouard was charged after four women complained in 2011 that he had repeatedly coerced them into having sexual relations while counseling them. He quit his job at the church but fought the charges. Jurors acquitted him of sexual abuse charges, but found him guilty of four counts of sexual exploitation.
Edouard's attorney argued that the pastor did not have a formal counseling relationship with the women.
But the high court upheld Edouard's sentence of five years in prison, saying Iowa law includes clergy members in its definition of counselor or therapist.
"This went beyond an 'informal exchange of advice,' or the 'giving of general spiritual advice or guidance from a clergy member to congregants,'" Justice Edward Mansfield wrote in the majority opinion. "There is substantial evidence that a relationship was established between Edouard and each victim, at least initially, 'for the purpose of addressing particular mental, intrapersonal or interpersonal dysfunctions.'"
Edouard has been free on bond while appealing his conviction, which was returned by a Dallas County jury in 2012.
The ruling did grant Edouard's request to review counseling records for one of the victims who told Edouard that she'd been sexually abused as a child. The woman testified she didn't suffer mental health issues until she began her relationship with the pastor, giving Edouard an opportunity to argue that he was not in a counseling role when the relationship began.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com