On a False Report

“the actual record matters”

“This is not scintillating prose, but the actual record matters. Every point in this paragraph is taken from a transcript of every reference to Steven Sitler in our elder minutes from 2005 to the present.

Steven was caught in March of 2005. I counseled the father of the victim to turn Steven into the authorities immediately. That happened the following day, and Steven was arrested. He was immediately expelled from New St. Andrews College.” Douglas Wilson

Yesterday The American Conservative allowed Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church, Moscow, to answer Rod Dreher’s column Scandal in Moscow. Mr. Wilson called his piece A Reluctant Response, which he uses to advance a narrative based on Kirk elders’ minutes, a document that does not correspond with the public record. However, time and resources do not permit us to note every inconsistency, so the snippet in the epigraph must suffice.

We have addressed in detail Mr. Wilson’s notion of “immediately” and how it actually means “wait 15 hours or longer.” Yesterday, however, he added a new wrinkle to the timeline by asserting “Steven was arrested.”

Mr. Wilson’s claim that Sitler was arrested is not true. Three witnesses confirm this:

Witness #1 — the Victims’ Father in Moscow, a Kirk Officer
This witness informed the sheriff’s department that he allowed Sitler to sleep in his home on the day that he learned Sitler had molested his children:

“That evening Sitler was still in [victims’] home. [Victims’ father] said that he ‘pretty much stayed up stairs in the hallway in case he tried to come up stairs again.’ [Victims’ father] said that before he went to bed he called his pastor and got his advice on how to handle the situation.” (Sheriff’s Report #2)

Then, in his written statement to the Latah County Sheriff’s Office, this Kirk officer said that on the next day, which is the day Mr. Wilson claims Sitler was arrested, he allowed Sitler to drive across state lines to live with his parents in Washington:

“On Friday morning, March 11, 2005, I spoke with both Mr. and Mrs. Sitler about Steven. They called me. I don’t know what Steven told them, but it was clearly enough to convey the severity of the situation. . . They said that they wanted Steven to come home to Colville today, and we all agreed that the sooner Steven left our home the better. Steven checked with me to make sure it was okay to leave because we had planned to visit the [another family of victims] to apologize if they were available. I left a voice message for the [other victim family] and told them Steven would be leaving by 10:00 a.m. He left on schedule.” (Written Statement)

This Kirk officer didn’t report Sitler until sometime “after lunch” that day:

“After lunch . . . I met with our pastor. He advised us to report this incident to the authorities right away. I contacted Greg Dickison to get his council. He contacted the Latah County Sheriff’s Office for me, which resulted in my initial report. . .” (Written Statement)

Then later that evening, the Kirk officer spoke with Sitler on the telephone:

“Sometime around 8:00 p.m. or later on March 11, Mr. Sitler called to say that Steven had not been entirely honest with me earlier. I agreed to speak to Steven. I think Mr. Sitler left the room for privacy.” (Written Statement)

We may conclude from this witness’s written testimony that Sitler was not arrested the next day; he was at his parents’ home, exactly where everyone planned he would be.

Witness #2 — Jennifer L. McFarland, Public Information Officer, Latah County Sheriff’s Office
On June 8, 2006, Officer McFarland posted the following question & answer to Moscow’s community bulletin board:

“On what date was Sitler first arrested or a criminal complaint issued? Was there an arrest or a criminal complaint? Was there ever bail request or set?”

“The detective wrote an affidavit for a warrant of arrest that was notarized on 6/28/2005. There is no indication in the file that an arrest warrant was issued or served”

Read it again: “There is no indication in the file that an arrest warrant was issued or served.” Now please note that Mr. Wilson affirmed Officer MacFarland’s version of the timeline, writing,

“I thank Jennifer MacFarland for her post and timeline, and I hope that will settle it.”

Witness #3 — the Idaho Supreme Court Data Repository
The state of Idaho states the reason for this site: “This website is available to the public to provide information on the status of trial court cases in the State of Idaho.” Look yourself. Click “Name Search” in the top-left corner; enter Sitler’s name in the appropriate fields and search for a record of arrest on March 11, 2005, or any other day in 2005. No record of arrest. No record of bail.

Mr. Wilson’s claim that “Steven was arrested” is false. An officer of the Kirk confirms this. An officer from the Latah County Sheriff’s Department confirms this. Idaho’s official website for court records confirms this. Steven Sitler was not arrested. And this matters because, as Mr. Wilson declared, “the actual record matters.”

Mr. Wilson and the Kirk elders want people to believe that Sitler was arrested. But the actual record demonstrates that the Kirk elders documented a falsehood to create and spread a false report. Too bad they didn’t show a little reluctance on this matter.