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Minnesota Court of Appeals throws out sex crime conviction of former priest

The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed a Ramsey County conviction entered against a man in November 2011. The case went before a jury, and the panel had found the man guilty of one count of criminal sexual conduct, while acquitting the defendant on a second count. The man was given a one year sentence to be served in the Ramsey County workhouse. Although the defendant was later released after serving time with good behavior, he appealed the conviction.

The man was a priest in a St. Paul catholic church who authorities accused of having unlawful sex with a parishioner. The Minnesota Court of Appeals did not find a constitutional fault in the criminal sexual conduct statute, but found that the prosecutor had elicited testimony before the jury that the priest had taken a vow of chastity. The appellate court ultimately ruled that the trial violated the former priest's constitutional rights, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The criminal defense reportedly argued that the priest had been counseling a parishioner over her alleged issues with an eating disorder and past experience with sexual abuse, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. However, after time, the relationship changed and the two engaged in an intimate relationship between two consenting adults.

The appellate court ruled that based upon the evidence and arguments presented, that the jury was given an improper view of how to evaluate the charges. The appellate judges ruled that the jury was invited to determine guilt or innocence based upon religious doctrine, and not on state law. The guilty verdict was thrown out, and the case was remanded to the trial court for a new trial.

Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press, "Convicted St. Paul priest wins new trial in sex case," Emily Gurnon, Nov. 26, 2012

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