Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

December 11, 2013

State files application for further review


Journal-Express

Des Moines — Late yesterday, the Iowa Attorney General's Office, on behalf of the State of Iowa, filed an application for further review regarding the Court of Appeals' recent decision to throw out a District Court verdict of guilty in the sexual exploitation case against former Pella pastor Patrick Edouard. 

Edouard was convicted of four counts of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist and one count of entering into a pattern/scheme of exploitation by a therapist. He was sentenced to one year in prison on each of the exploitation counts and five years on the ongoing charge. The individual sentences per exploitation count will be served consecutively, and the sentence on the pattern charge will run concurrently with those. 

He filed an appeal, and the Court of Appeals granted him a new trial in a ruling filed Nov. 20. Iowa law defines a counselor or therapist as anyone “who provides or purports to provide mental health services.” That can include members of the clergy. But critical terms in the law are undefined, including “treatment,” “assessment,” and “counseling.”

A previous ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court held that “strictly personal relationships involving the informal exchange of advice,” did not constitute the counseling role needed for the charge. The district court didn’t include the definition of counseling from that decision in jury instructions, though, and the appeals court says that was a mistake that abused the district court’s discretion.

The ruling reads, in part:

“[W]e agree with Edouard that he suffered prejudice as a result of the court’s failure to include the Gonzalez definition of ‘counseling’ in the jury instruction defining ‘mental health services.’ Edouard’s entire defense was premised on the fact that he could not be convicted of sexual exploitation because his actions did not meet the definition of ‘counseling.’”

The appeals court continues, saying the district court erred in barring one of Edouard’s expert witnesses from testifying. 

In the State's request, it is written that the District Court ruled that the opinions of Dr. Hollinda Wakefield, a forensic psychologist, would not be helpful to the jury, was not based upon recognized standard and were not relevant to use of the terms "mental health services."

The State's review also challenges the Court of Appeals' decision to base its definition of "counseling" on the Gonzalez decision. The review says that trial courts have "rather broad discretion" in choosing to convey a particular concept to a jury. 

The Iowa Supreme Court can choose to approve or deny the State's request for further review. The application for review is attached to this article.