Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches Presiding Ministers’ Report on the Sitler and Wight Sex Abuse Cases

COMMUNION OF REFORMED
EVANGELICAL CHURCHES

Presiding Ministers’ Report
on the
Sitler and Wight Sex Abuse Cases

Presented to
Christ Church
Moscow, Idaho
August 15, 2017

Contents

Part 1: The Cases
Review Committee Background and Composition . . . . 3
Mission and Purpose . . . . 3
Research . . . . 5
Overview of the Facts . . . . 6
Evaluation . . . . 6

I. Commendations . . . . 6

  1. Legal Cooperation . . . . 6
  2. Pastoral Counseling . . . . 7
  3. Protocols . . . . 7
  4. Confession, Repentance, Forgiveness . . . . 7

II. Corrections . . . . 8

  1. Evaluation and Support of Wight . . . . 8
  2. Counseling and Pastoral Care of the Greenfields . . . . 10
  3. Communication about Sitler’s Molestations . . . . 10
  4. Sitler/Travis Marriage Complications . . . . 11
  5. Sitler’s Reintegration into the Congregation . . . . 12

III. Recommendations . . . . 12

  1. Greyfriars Hall Candidate Evaluations . . . . 12
  2. Child Protection Statement and Policies . . . . 13
  3. Domestic Abuse Policies . . . . 14
  4. Conclusion . . . . 15

Part 2: Social Media

  1. Introduction . . . . 16
  2. Responding to Internet Allegations . . . . 16
  3. Pastor Wilson’s Blogging Responses . . . . 17
  4. Principles for Engaging on Social Media . . . . 19

Appendix A — Sitler Case Annotated Timeline . . . . 22
Appendix B — Wight Cases Annotated Timeline . . . . 50

Review Committee Background and Composition
The mission of the church includes bringing comfort, healing, and hope to victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Sexual abuse and domestic violence are contrary to God’s will in every way, and those who have power in the church (and state) should do all they can to eradicate these crimes and to help restore victims.

As a way of addressing these issues as they arose in the context of two criminal cases in Moscow, Idaho, a review committee was formed in October 2015 in response to a request from the two CREC churches involved, Christ Church and Trinity Reformed Church. The committee has been asked to assess the responses (wisdom, pastoral care, counseling) of the two churches. The committee’s work is in accordance with CREC Constitution, Article IV. C. 9. b., which authorizes Presiding Ministers to inquire into the “spiritual and doctrinal health . . . of the churches.” In this case, because Douglas Wilson is both Presiding Minister of the CREC and pastor of Christ Church, he recused himself and asked the Pro Tem Presiding Minister of the CREC, along with the Presiding Ministers of the seven CREC presbyteries, to serve as the review committee. The invitation from Christ Church asked,

Are our practices in this area operating within a biblical framework and consistent with the law? Are we operating competently and in good faith?

This invitation means that we would invite any of these men to ask any questions of members of our session and pastoral staff, and they can have complete access to our minutes, records, etc. We would ask them to issue a public report by the end of the year.

Each of the men on the committee is a pastor in a CREC church and has been duly elected by his respective presbytery to serve a three-year term as Presiding Minister. They are, therefore, truly representative of the churches in their presbyteries. The committee’s members are:

Alan Burrow Knox Presbytery
Tim Bushong Tyndale Presbytery (Pro Tem Presiding Minister of Presbytery)
Garrett Craw Calvin Presbytery
Todd Davis Wycliffe Presbytery
Duane Garner Augustine Presbytery
Rich Lusk Athanasius Presbytery
Jack Phelps Anselm Presbytery

Former CREC Pro Tem Presiding Minister Randy Booth was initially part of the committee, but resigned his office shortly after the committee was formed. The committee does not have an official chairman, but Jack Phelps, the new Pro Tem Presiding Minister of the CREC, has served as discussion moderator and spokesman as necessary.

While the two cases occurred approximately a decade ago, they have been the subject of recent discussion and controversy, especially on social media. One case involved Steven Sitler, a member of Christ Church, and the other involved Jamin Wight, a past member of both Christ Church and Trinity Reformed Church.

Mission and Purpose
The committee acknowledges at the outset that crimes of sexual abuse and domestic violence within the church are grievous sins and that the church as a whole suffers with those individuals who are suffering because of these sins. While our mission is to evaluate the work of the requesting churches and report to them our findings, the committee also wants to make sure that those most affected by crimes of sexual abuse and domestic violence are cared for and helped, and we believe this emphasis is fully consistent with the spirit in which the sessions of the two churches asked us to undertake this work. The committee hopes its work will lead to the establishment of protections and protocols that will help prevent future occurrences of abuse in CREC churches, and to prepare the churches to properly respond to abuse situations that may arise.

At the same time, it is important to understand what the Committee is not. This Committee is not a church court. No ecclesiastical charges have been filed, nor have any formal complaints been made under any provision of the CREC Constitution or Book of Procedures. At no time has there been any allegation that anyone in leadership at these two churches is personally guilty, or suspected of, any sexual impropriety or criminal offense. The men on the committee are pastors, and the committee’s task is pastoral toward all involved. We have been called upon to determine whether there were errors, sins, or mistakes committed by the leadership of Christ Church or Trinity Reformed Church in their handling of the two cases under review, so that any failures can be dealt with appropriately and pastorally. We want to hold our pastors and elders to the highest possible standards of integrity, humility, charity, and pastoral sensitivity. While we are certainly concerned that our churches operate in accordance with civil law in these matters, the bar is set far higher than basic legal compliance. We are concerned not merely with the civil administration of justice, but also with assuring that the Church’s ministry of truth, grace, and compassion has been faithfully carried out in the situations under review.

We have gathered the facts to the best of our ability through interaction with as many involved parties as possible. All interaction with involved parties was, of course, voluntary, and we did not put anyone under oath. To help complete the work and ensure its integrity, the committee sought help from MinistrySafe, a consulting group with expertise in assisting churches as they navigate these issues.1

With that in mind, the Committee sought answers to two basic sets of questions:

  1. In handling the cases under review, did the pastors or elders commit sins against anyone involved? If so, have they repented? Were there any pastoral mistakes made, any attempted cover-up, or any failure to cooperate properly with legal authorities? Did either session, acting on what they knew at the time, do anything they should not have done, or fail to do anything they should have done? Did they treat everyone involved according to biblical standards and with pastoral competence? Did they love and serve those in their respective flocks?
  1. With what is now known, are there matters that should have been handled differently by the leadership or that should be handled differently if similar cases arise in the future? Looking back on these cases, what can the sessions of the churches and the CREC as a whole learn from them going forward? How can our churches better minister to victims and prevent victimization? How can we improve our shepherding and counseling ministries?

In conducting its work, the committee has asked for and has been given complete access to the records of both churches. We have been allowed to interview anyone in a leadership position at either church who is serving or was serving at the time of the events. We have also sought to interview a wide range of affected parties and to review relevant documents from a wide range of sources, including session minutes, court records, and correspondence between many different people with some connection to the cases. While the cases have been the subject of all kinds of internet discussion, we have sought to be objective and unbiased by doing all of our own research.

Research
The committee has attempted to be as thorough as possible, given our providential situations as busy pastors and elders spread across the country. We acknowledge it has taken far longer to produce this report than was hoped, but as we progressed in our labors, we began to realize not only the mountain of detail involved in the history of these cases and the controversy surrounding them, but also the extent to which the underlying issues would affect more than just the two Moscow churches. We wanted to be thorough in dealing with the matters in a way that would bring benefit to all CREC churches. As a result, much time, effort, and expense has been invested in this process.

In all, the committee has conducted approximately 50 hours of interviews, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents in researching the cases. We have had numerous hours of committee meetings via video conferencing and carried on extensive email exchanges.

Conducting extensive interviews and examining documents helped give the committee a fairly detailed overview of the facts of the cases and the feelings of those involved. Of course, the committee also faced some limiting factors. Some of those we sought to interview declined to meet with us. Others would speak only off the record. Given that the cases under review were spread across a decade and two churches, many we talked with confessed to having imperfect or incomplete recollections of what had occurred or who had been told what and when. This report will not attempt to reconstruct all of our detailed findings, but rather summarize them to provide the big picture.

The committee expresses its gratitude to all those who helped us in our research. We did find several conflicting accounts, not all of which were resolvable, but the information gleaned from direct interaction with involved parties was extremely helpful.

We do need to address the sensitive issue of interacting with victims and their families in the course of this process. The committee knows the victims and their families are the ones most greatly harmed by what has happened, and as a committee, it was certainly not our desire to open old wounds or revisit painful, tragic periods of life unnecessarily. It was obviously not appropriate to speak to the children who were victimized by Sitler, but we are grateful we were able to talk to one set of parents who provided many helpful insights into Sitler’s criminal actions. We also fully understand why Wight’s victim, Natalie Greenfield, would decline to speak with us directly. Whenever abuse of this nature occurs in the context of a church, it is very difficult to rebuild trust with those who are associated with church leadership, especially if the victim suspects that church leadership has been openly supportive of her abuser. However, we were very thankful that Natalie was willing to engage in email correspondence via a mediator, as well as to answer some of our questions via her blog. Her interactions with us were very helpful in understanding the controversy.2

MinistrySafe has proven to be very valuable in helping us better understand all that is involved in sexual abuse, recovery, and prevention. The statistics on sexual abuse are eye opening, to say the least, especially for those in Christian ministry. Even the most conservative data indicate that one in ten children will suffer sexual abuse before age 18,3 that the abuser will be someone they know and trust,4 and that churches are considered target-rich environments, not only because of the prevalence of children, but also because Christians tend to be trusting and easy to manipulate. As one sexual predator candidly put it, “I considered church people easy to fool . . . [T]hey have a trust that comes from being Christians. They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people.”5 This should serve as a wake-up call to all Christian ministries involving children.

Overview of the Facts
Both the Sitler and Wight abuse cases resulted in criminal charges and convictions. Once the sexual abuse was divulged, the criminal justice system was quickly and appropriately involved, and once involved, it drove the train. We know that court records, at least the parts that are public, often do not disclose all the details of the crime, especially from a victim’s point of view. Nevertheless, the records publicly available in the Sitler and Wight cases are more than sufficient to establish the basic timelines, as well as the issues, contentions, and legal decisions involved. We have included annotated timelines in two appendices:

Sitler Case Annotated Timeline Appendix A
Wight Cases Annotated Timeline Appendix B

Evaluation
We will evaluate Christ Church in three areas: matters for which they are to be commended, matters which require correction, and recommendations for the future. In our final recommendations, we will provide counsel that is applicable to all CREC churches.

Note that we have not provided full documentation for our commendations, corrections, and recommendations. In the nature of the case, providing documentation is simply not possible, though much of the documentation we relied upon is publicly available in the court files or on the internet.

I Commendations
Many aspects of the actions of the leadership of Christ Church may be commended. As our Committee conducted numerous interviews, we asked each person if they believed they were sinned against in any way by church leadership. We wanted to know if they believed anyone in church leadership needed to repent of any specific actions. The overwhelming response from interviewees was that church leadership had not committed any major offenses nor sinned against them.

Specific areas of commendation include the following:

A. Legal Cooperation
We found no evidence that the leadership of Christ Church sought to protect abusers from the legal consequences of their actions. As best we can discern, law enforcement was involved promptly once the allegations became known, and the churches were cooperative with the criminal justice process. Overall, the leadership of Christ Church recognized crimes and sins for what they were. In the entirety of our review of the cases, we found no gross moral failings on the part of the leadership of the church.

B. Pastoral Counseling
We recognize that abuse survivors face an extremely difficult journey to recovery, and we know that the Church, at her best, will be a support and aid in that restoration process. We also admit that churches in general often do not do all they could or should do in these situations, and sometimes pastors and elders lack the kind of counseling expertise needed to help victims most effectively. It should also be noted that effective ministry to sexual abusers requires specialized training, for abusers are often very adept at grooming not only their victims, but also their overseers and gatekeepers. We will address some shortcomings in these areas below. At the same time, we want to commend Christ Church for the good faith efforts they made in offering and providing counseling services to victims and offenders.

We have reason to believe that through Douglas Wilson’s ministry to Steven Sitler, many of Sitler’s crimes were exposed and uncovered when they might not have been otherwise. While Christ Church could have been more effective in helping Natalie Greenfield get the counseling she needed, good faith efforts were made to help her, and at least at one point she expressed gratitude for the ministry of Christ Church in her life. We know her opinion later changed, but we saw evidence that Christ Church leadership did attempt to help her after her abuse came to light.

C. Protocols
After Sitler was released from prison in May 2007, he sought to reintegrate into the Christ Church community. Christ Church leadership was supportive of legal protocols designed to keep Sitler from having access to children. There was one situation we discovered in which Sitler was at a church event when he should not have been, but the situation was quickly corrected and not repeated, to our knowledge. Whenever a sex offender is released into the public, it is fully appropriate to be on guard, given the high rate of recidivism and the skill that offenders have often developed in grooming not only victims, but also gatekeepers. While we are hopeful that Sitler is genuinely repentant and successful in being a faithful Christian man, both the civil law and pastoral prudence require that he be monitored vigilantly (e.g., not allowed “to attend any church events where there are children present without thoroughly letting the families in the church know he would be there”).6 Christ Church has shown a desire to extend the grace of the gospel to Sitler while also protecting its most vulnerable members from the potential dangers posed by Sitler’s presence. We do believe that ministry to sex offenders is perhaps more difficult and involved than Christ Church leadership was prepared to handle (see below); however, we also recognize that they did make then, and continue to make today a good faith effort to monitor and oversee Sitler.

D. Confession, Repentance, Forgiveness
Finally, in cases like these, one of the high points is when those in leadership humble themselves and seek forgiveness for shortcomings, not in an attempt to appease critics, but simply because it is the right thing to do. Pastor Wilson sought Natalie Greenfield’s forgiveness for failing to pursue her for further counseling.7

As we were completing our committee’s research, a video was released in which Mike Lawyer of Christ Church defended the ministry of the church and accused Natalie Greenfield of being “bitter,” “upset,” “grabbing on to being a victim,” and “trying to be somebody.”8 This is a clear and pointed example of what Christian ministers should not do in speaking about victims. Lawyer, however, immediately repented and offered Natalie an extended written apology, admitting that it was “sinful and wrong” for him to say such things about her.9 While Lawyer’s original statements in the video were completely out of line, we commend him for coming to this conclusion and confessing his sin right away.

II Corrections
From the committee’s assessment, there are a number of areas where church leadership could have acted with greater wisdom and care than were demonstrated. Granted, our evaluation has the advantage of being retrospective, and we do not doubt leadership acted in good faith based on what they knew at the time. However, there are some areas where the church leadership could have been more diligent or more prudent. We offer these correctives in love and humility.

A. Evaluation and Support of Wight
In the Jamin Wight case, Christ Church leadership should have been far more careful in evaluating his character and fitness for ministry, and could have done so at an earlier date. In particular, the scalding review he was given by the elders of Ancient Hope Church (Los Angeles, CA; now defunct) in the summer of 2003 should have carried more weight in evaluating his qualifications for ministry. This report simply was not given the attention it deserved, and not everyone who should have seen it was given access to it. There were clear indicators in the Ancient Hope report that Wight had serious problems with authority and with treating women with proper respect (resulting in a terminated internship), but this report did not seem to be widely known among Christ Church leadership and was not fully factored into his ongoing training at Greyfriars (Mike Lawyer had no recollection of it, and the elders at Trinity Reformed were not given access to it after Wight transferred to their church). We never received an adequate explanation for this oversight. While Wight was required to make an apology to the elders at Ancient Hope, more should have been done to re-evaluate his fitness for ministry at that time.

Looking back, Wight was clearly a hypocrite, and hypocrites, in the nature of the case, cannot always be detected, but Christ Church leadership overlooked some of the clues for longer than they should have. Wight was rightly dropped from the Greyfriars program when his abuse of Natalie Greenfield was brought to the attention of pastoral leadership, but had the internship evaluation been given more weight, he presumably would have been dropped sooner. He also would have been treated with more suspicion than trust in the aftermath of his abuse of Greenfield coming to light. His version of events would have been more carefully examined, questioned, and challenged. It certainly would have been more difficult for him to continue his pattern of abusive and deceptive relationships within the church later on (keeping secret his domestic abuse of his wife [redacted]; breaking probation rules and then lying about it, resulting in perjury charges; etc.). It also would have made it less likely that Trinity Reformed would have sent Wight as a representative of the church on a mission trip to Haiti in 2010, a highly questionable decision in retrospect. In short, the great damage caused by Wight could have been mitigated by more rigorous forms of evaluation and accountability.

In dealing with the Jamin/[redacted] marriage situation, it seems that it might have been wiser for the Trinity and Christ Church counselors to have had more individual sessions with [redacted] separate from Jamin, since it appears that [redacted] was often intimidated by Jamin’s presence in the joint sessions. Facts the counselors needed to get to the heart of the matter were not revealed in the joint sessions. Had the counselors been more suspicious of Jamin’s credibility, the domestic abuse might have come to light more quickly.10

The committee also questions the wisdom of some of the language used to describe Wight and his crimes. In a letter to Officer Green, Pastor Wilson of Christ Church denied that Wight was a “sexual predator.”11 In our investigation, we determined that Pastor Wilson’s intention was to distinguish Wight’s conduct from Sitler’s, for Wight was being charged under the same statute — lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor (“L and L”), which covers a broad range of sexual conduct. Prosecutor Bill Thompson indicated that there were technical reasons why he charged Wight with “L and L,” instead of statutory rape, which would ordinarily be the more specific crime applicable to Wight. Pastor Wilson could not have known that, of course, and he mistakenly assumed Wight was being accused of being a pedophile.

This brings us to a broader point, one we cannot emphasize enough: A pastor is walking into a minefield, and runs a high risk of causing harm to victims, confusion to the public, and doubt about his own ministry, when he ventures into legal questions, especially in criminal cases. Presuming to raise issues as to whether a defendant is a “sexual predator,” or whether he is properly charged with “L and L” is wading into the deep end where it isn’t prudent for pastors to go. The legal system is its own world, it operates according to its own definitions, and it often uses terms quite differently than ordinary citizens would. Weighing in on whether a defendant is a “sexual predator” or whether he is properly charged with a certain crime is almost certain to cause unintended harm. For example, it can easily suggest to victims, even as it did in both the Wight case and the Sitler case, that the crimes against them are being minimized by the church. And to what end? An opinion from a local pastor will typically be accorded no weight at all by the legal system, especially in a criminal case. Moreover, a criminal defendant will be represented by counsel (even if he cannot afford one). In the Wight case, Wight was represented by competent counsel, fully conversant with the criminal law, who was more than capable of ensuring Wight was appropriately charged. By far the best practice for pastors is to refrain from interjecting themselves into the legal system; if they are asked to respond to a certain question or speak to a certain issue, they should stick to the facts, if any are known to them, and beyond that, say nothing.

Also, in a letter to Gary Greenfield, Pastor Wilson stated that the Christ Church session was “distressed over the way Jamin took sinful advantage of your daughter,” but “just as distressed at your extremely poor judgment as a father and protector” (emphasis added).12 This kind of language, especially in written form, is virtually sure to be received by victims and their families, as well as by many in the public, as blame­-shifting from the criminal perpetrator onto those who are suffering the pain of the crime. As such, it is counterproductive. We recognize that ministers, following Jesus, often have the delicate task of ministering in multiple directions out of the same events — sometimes providing wisdom, sometimes comfort, sometimes correction.13 When a pastor finds it prudent (for the good of the person concerned) to suggest greater wisdom to a victim or a victim’s family member in the context of a criminal case, extreme care and sensitivity must be exercised in terms of timing, setting, and content. Such a conversation would likely be much better received if conducted after the criminal proceedings are over, in a personal setting, one-on-one, and face-to-face. Sex abuse victims, in this context, should be receiving Christian counseling by one specially trained in sex abuse treatment (as we point out elsewhere), and a suggestion of greater wisdom (if one is needed) should in all likelihood come from the specialized counselor; a pastor should ordinarily not undertake the matter apart from the advice of the counselor.

B. Counseling and Pastoral Care of the Greenfields
Christ Church should have done more to care for Natalie and her family after the abuse became known. Pastor Wilson appropriately has sought forgiveness for failing to press harder against Gary Greenfield’s objections in order to reach out to Natalie. We also believe the church could have provided better counseling services for Natalie (preferably a female counselor specifically trained to deal with sex abuse victims), as well as providing a wider and more sympathetic support network to help her deal with the shame, isolation, and trauma that follow such abuse. It would have been good for someone other than Pastor Wilson to be her primary counselor; she needed to be ministered to by someone with expertise in sexual trauma.

C. Communications about Sitler’s Molestations
In the Sitler case, it was a serious mistake for Christ Church leadership not to formally inform the congregation (or, more specifically, all parents of young children in the congregation) of his pattern of serial molestations immediately after it came to light. Sadly, as MinistrySafe has pointed out, churches in general do not have a good track record in promptly and adequately reporting sexual abuse allegations. Sitler was initially confronted and admitted his conduct in early March 2005. Sitler immediately left Moscow to reside with his parents in Colville, Washington. Pastor Wilson informed the session of Sitler’s crimes at the next weekly session meeting, and Sitler was expelled from New St. Andrews for (unspecified) “criminal activity.” In July 2005, Sitler pled guilty to one count of Lewd Conduct with a Minor (he privately confessed to molesting 15+ children across several states), and in September he was incarcerated for six months at Cottonwood for evaluation. He was subsequently sentenced to one year in the Latah County jail, and was ultimately released on supervised probation on May 4, 2007.

The session first officially notified the congregation of Sitler’s molestations at the Head of Household meeting of November 2005, while Sitler was confined at Cottonwood, which was almost eight months after church leadership became aware of his abuse. Even though Sitler was out of Moscow or confined during virtually all of that eight months, church leadership should have officially informed the congregation immediately, for there are other important concerns in play besides just removing the immediate threat. Immediate official notice is necessary to allow parents to determine if their own children have been exposed to the predator and subjected to abuse, as well as for getting victims help as soon as possible. This is an area where our churches need expert training, and it is one of the reasons we have consulted with MinistrySafe.

We must stress this point: When church officials have “reason to believe” child sexual abuse has occurred, they should (1) immediately report the facts to law enforcement, (2) cooperate fully in the legal investigation, and (3) officially notify the congregation as soon as possible, taking into account, of course, the need to protect victim privacy and to allow parents to communicate with their own children.14 Christ Church acted commendably in the first two, but fell short on the third. Christ Church’s elders indicated that they thought everyone knew the facts, inasmuch as Christ Church is a tight knit congregation in a small town, and the allegations were the talk of the congregation and the town. But even if true, none of that is official notification, and official notification is what the congregation should have received immediately.

There were other communication breakdowns regarding the Sitler case. For example, Christ Church elder Ed Iverson, who helped bring Katie Travis together with Sitler, was unaware of the full extent of Sitler’s sexual crimes (specifically, he was unaware that Sitler had molested multiple children).15 This raises questions about who else in the Christ Church community might not have known that a serial child molester had been indwelling the community for an extended period of time. However close-knit the Christ Church community might be, or however fast word might travel via newspapers or word of mouth, it is crucial for church leadership to make timely, official, and explicit communications to their congregations when they have “reason to believe” a case of abuse or molestation has occurred.

Finally, with regard to Pastor Wilson’s letter to Sitler’s sentencing judge, we reiterate our previous cautions about pastors interacting with the legal system.16 In the letter, Pastor Wilson stated that he was “grateful” that Sitler would be “sentenced for his behavior” and that he wanted “hard consequences for him,” but at the same time urged that the sentence be “measured and limited.” We are satisfied that what Pastor Wilson meant was, in light of all the circumstances, including Sitler’s self-disclosure and acceptance of responsibility, that the sentencing judge would not just put Sitler in prison and throw away the key. Nevertheless, a recommendation from a pastor for a “measured and limited” sentence for a serial child molester, whatever the intentions, is the kind of thing that can lead to a lot of heartache for victims and their families, and a lot of confusion by the public. It would have been wiser for Pastor Wilson to simply stick to communicating about the facts of the case as he was familiar with them, and let the judge do his job of determining an appropriate sentence under current law.

D. Sitler/Travis Marriage Complications
In the case of the Sitler/Travis wedding, several things could have been done with greater pastoral care and foresight by Christ Church leadership. While Katie Travis (now Katie Sitler) asserts she was fully informed about Sitler’s past crimes, it is not clear her family or home church elders were (the committee’s interviews with the concerned parties did not yield a clear answer to this question). Christ Church elder Ed Iverson, who introduced Travis and Sitler (with her father’s permission and in response to a request by Travis for help in finding a Christian husband), stated in our interview that he was unaware that Sitler had multiple underage victims. Again, this suggests a breakdown in communication of vital information. Among Christ Church’s leadership, everyone seemed to assume that someone else was dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Sincerity is not in question; the process is.

Under the circumstances, we strongly question the wisdom of Christ Church leadership in supporting and solemnizing the Sitler/Travis marriage. Looking at the court record, everything seems to have been barreling down the tracks, with both the court and the church on their heels. The judge was brought in only ten days before the wedding, and regarding the child, the judge was not brought in at all until after the child was born.

Purely from the church’s perspective, let us ask some questions: Does a serial child molester, who professes faith and repentance, forfeit the privilege of marriage? Jesus, speaking figuratively of celibacy, said “There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (Mat 19:12). Is this one of those situations? And if the privilege of marriage is not forfeited, what about having children? And before answering that question, factor in Jesus’ warning that “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42). What is the practical effect of Sitler having children, given the high recidivism rate among pedophiles and the devastating results? What is an appropriate time period for gauging, not necessarily the sincerity, but the long-term effectiveness of repentance for a serial child molester, given the fact that such an addictive behavior can have long hooks and reach way out of the past with horrendous consequences? Is there hard evidence that marrying an age-appropriate person of the opposite sex actually “cures” or permanently overcomes the perverse sexual proclivities of the pedophile? Given the fact that eighty percent of male sex offenders are married, what is the risk that a newly married spouse could unintentionally and unwittingly end up providing cover for further child sexual abuse? What about the judge’s statement at the marriage hearing that if Sitler had a child, it would be reasonable to require him to live outside the home? Should the church support a marriage and the fathering of a child under conditions where it is highly questionable whether there will ever be a normal father-child relationship? What kind of ongoing duties does Sitler having a child impose on the state and the church? Can those obligations realistically be met?

We do not know the answers to these questions, but they need to be confronted, which is a complex, time­-consuming, inter-disciplinary undertaking. Unfortunately, in the Sitler situation, we see no evidence these questions were seriously explored, let alone answered. There did not seem to be time. But would not that fact alone be reason enough to withhold support for the marriage and childbearing, at least until these questions could be adequately addressed?

What is done is now done, and we are thankful that the Sitler family remains under the pastoral care of Christ Church (even if they have not always been able to live under one roof together), but we believe the whole process could have been handled with greater knowledge and wisdom.

E. Sitler’s Reintegration into the Congregation
Churches should carefully consider whether it is feasible or wise to try to minister to a sex offender if the offender has victims in the congregation — even if the church has the victims’ consent. It is very difficult for churches to ensure that all of the inevitable distress, inconvenience, and awkwardness are borne by the offender, and none at all by the victims. This is not meant as punishment for the offender; it is simply part of accepting responsibility, which is the first step on the road to rehabilitation (as many sentencing judges have told defendants before them). Having offenders remain in the congregation can lead to victims leaving, as in fact happened in this case. Churches that do minister to sex offenders should recognize that this must be central to their mission; it cannot be done well unless everyone in the congregation (leadership and membership) is fully on board and fully informed at all times. They need to minister very well, with full involvement, or not at all. Supervision is too difficult, and the risks too great, otherwise. While we appreciate Christ Church’s sincere efforts to minister to Sitler, as well as his victims and their families, we do not believe Christ Church was fully aware of the challenges involved in this kind of undertaking.

III Recommendations
A. Greyfriars Hall Candidate Evaluations
At present, Christ Church’s Greyfriars Hall is the closest institution the CREC has to a denominational seminary or ministerial training center. It is vital that Greyfriars establish proper protocols for vetting ministerial candidates and providing them with intense accountability throughout their training. In addition to initial screenings, extensive reference requirements, and criminal background checks, students should be given ongoing evaluations. We recommend consulting with MinistrySafe to develop a more comprehensive screening process.

As our review progressed and interviews were completed, it became apparent to the committee that the Greyfriars program needs a significant overhaul (more than it has received). For example, it was revealed that a large percentage (perhaps the majority) of ministerial candidates never complete their required studies while in Moscow but are expected to complete them at their next location. Also, records kept on students were often incomplete and there was a lack of communication between various entities involved in a student’s training (churches, Greyfriars, internship locations).

Our recommendation is that, in general, Greyfriars Hall take a more institutional posture and investigate how established seminaries deal with the problems and challenges of vetting candidates for ministry, including character checks, as well as keeping careful records and improving communications amongst pastors and elders involved in the training and oversight of candidates. We recommend that the process of assessing new students and re-assessing them during their program be tightened up significantly. We urge having a mapped out plan with scheduled benchmarks which are reviewed by all parties involved and having all of these records maintained in a well-organized system. We also recommend that the program have a more definite beginning and end point, and that students be strongly encouraged to complete the whole program before taking a call to a pastoral position.

Further, we would strongly recommend that Greyfriars bolster its counseling component since future pastors are likely going to have deal with cases like those under review in this report.

B. Child Protection Statement and Policies
It is crucial that all CREC churches develop policies and practices designed to protect children from predators as much as possible. This may include requiring training and background checks for anyone in the church who will work with children, making sure systems of communication are in place to inform all appropriate members of the congregation (see section II. C.) whenever a case of abuse arises (e.g., not relying solely on “Head of Household” meetings to get the word out), and getting specialized training for those who will counsel both abusers and the abused (and their families). We have engaged MinistrySafe to help us in this process as well. Our committee recommends that we have MinistrySafe train our leadership in how to provide pastoral care in sex abuse situations at our 2017 General Council meeting and that the CREC Council or individual presbyteries pursue MinistrySafe membership so that their materials and counsel will be readily available to our churches.

We also urge the CREC Council to adopt an official statement or memorial expressing a denominational commitment to provide adequate and well-equipped pastoral care to victims of various forms of abuse; of course, the statement should show how the gospel applies to both victims and to their abusers. We believe MinistrySafe can provide helpful guidance in this area as well.

During the Committee’s examination of the cases, we interacted with some victims and spoke to attorneys with abuse case experience. From those interviews, we compiled a list of actions that churches should take when these situations arise. They are as follows:

  1. Have policies on sexual and domestic abuse in place before an event occurs.
  2. Have notification procedures established and in place for:
    1. The victim and/or the victim’s family, as appropriate;
    2. Local law enforcement authorities (and be prepared to cooperate with any investigation that may ensue);
    3. Members of the congregation, as appropriate. This may vary, depending on the nature of the abuse (child sexual abuse might be handled differently than spousal abuse, for example);
    4. During the notification process, being sensitive to victim privacy;
    5. Encouraging other victims or victims’ families to come forward; providing opportunity for them to do so.
  1. Provide competent and appropriate counseling opportunities for victims and their families
    1. May be provided by church leadership with training and experience in these tasks;
    2. May be outsourced, if necessary;
    3. Church funds should be made available to assist with the cost of outsourced counseling, as needed.
  1. Provide a safe environment for genuine victims within the church. As part of the teaching ministry of the church, leaders can assist the congregation in understanding how to support victims during their recovery.
  2. When ministering to an abuser, churches should take all necessary steps to protect any potential future victims.
  3. Abusers who are church members should be subject to church discipline, up to and including excommunication if they remain unrepentant.

C. Domestic Abuse Policies
While examining the cases that developed in the Moscow churches, the Committee came to believe that CREC churches would benefit from more training in handling sex abuse issues. Therefore we recommend that all CREC church leaders who are going to be responsible for counseling receive specialized instruction in how to recognize and handle abuse. If such training proves impossible to provide, CREC pastors should connect with qualified, biblically grounded Christian counselors in their geographic location who can provide counseling services (at the church’s expense if needed) for those involved in cases of domestic abuse.

Churches that (rightly) teach and practice masculine headship, as set forth in the Scriptures, need to be especially sensitive to potential abuses of that headship. In recent years, we have seen many associated with some form of “patriarchalism” fall into serious sins involving sexual and/or physical abuse of women. It needs to be very clear, both within our congregations and in our public witness to the world, that our churches do not condone such practices. Indeed, we stand against them with all our might. Church leaders are called upon to protect women and children from those who would harm them or prey upon them. Our churches rightly uphold male, masculine leadership, but this does not make women voiceless or powerless; indeed, when women have no recourse and no power, abuse can go on unchecked. Church leaders should work hard to protect women from men who would prey on them. We should work hard to detect and root out any forms of abuse in our community. We should make it clear by our words and actions that true masculine leadership entails sacrificial care for the weak and the vulnerable. Christian men do not take advantage of women, but serve them; they do not abuse women, but honor them.

Some CREC pastors have developed friendly working relationships with the ministry of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One of Bethlehem’s pastors, Rev. Jason Meyers, has posted a sermon on line in which he makes a distinction “between two types of marital sinfulness: normative sinfulness and abusive sinfulness.”17 Valuable counseling guidance can be obtained from separating these sorts of sinful behavior.18

The Committee thinks it would be wise for the CREC to adopt an official statement or a memorial addressing domestic abuse and for CREC churches to implement policies to prevent domestic abuse and to deal with it in a gospel-based way if and when it arises. A starting point for CREC consideration might be taken from the declaration produced by Bethlehem Baptist.19 The CREC statement should also specify the circumstances under which various forms of abuse could provide grounds for lawful dissolution of the marriage and the necessity of involving law enforcement when a crime is indicated. Finally, the statement should recognize that both men and women, husbands and wives, can be guilty of abuse, and it is equally unbiblical and wrong, no matter who the perpetrator is.

IV Conclusion
We know this report will not satisfy everyone. Perhaps it will not satisfy anyone! But we do hope and pray many will find it helpful. One of our main concerns after Christ Church requested the Committee to undertake this work has been to encourage all CREC churches to closely examine their plans, practices and proposed actions for any cases that might arise. It is our desire to equip CREC churches with preventive protocols addressing the risk of child sexual abuse, and appropriate practices designed to serve and support sexual abuse survivors in circumstances where abuse is revealed or has occurred. Our concern has also been to better equip our churches to handle cases of domestic violence and abuse. In the process of addressing the circumstances at issue at Christ Church, we found it necessary to speak to the CREC at large, as well as to the survivors of sexual and domestic abuse in the Moscow CREC churches, and in CREC churches as a whole. It is our hope that our words carry the grace and wisdom of Christ.

Regrettably, we have found there are many issues that are not resolvable so many years after the events. There are some things in our broken world that simply cannot be fixed until Jesus comes in glory at the last day. In this report, we are simply not able to deal with every detail or resolve every conflicting account or address every issue that has arisen. We are, however, confident that we have been able to grasp the big picture of how the cases were handled by Christ Church and we trust the Lord will use this report for the good of all. Specifically, we hope that this report will show abuse survivors that we empathize with their pain and hope they can find healing through the gospel in the context of the church of Jesus Christ.

It is our intent, moving forward, to take proactive steps to equip CREC churches to prevent sexual abuse, properly report cases that come to light, and handle reported cases effectively and wisely. To this end, we have engaged professionals who are experts in sexual abuse prevention, unrelated to CREC, to help us better understand and address the risk of child sexual abuse in ministry contexts.

We have engaged MinistrySafe (MinistrySafe.com) to help equip CREC member churches with effective training, policies, and screening practices meant to reduce the risk of sexual abuse, properly report instances of abuse, and effectively minister to abuse survivors. The attorneys at MinistrySafe will advise us, train our church leadership, and help us implement appropriate policy to address sexual abuse issues with wisdom, care, and sensitivity.

We hope this report and the resources made available through MinistrySafe will serve our churches well, particularly pastors and elders who are responsible for teaching, overseeing, guarding, counseling, disciplining, and leading their congregations. Finally, we hope that abusers will feel the weight of the wreckage caused by their sin, and will witness the forgiving and transforming grace of Christ.

 

Part 2
The Use of Social Media

Introduction
The recent furor over the two ten-year-old abuse cases actually arose as a controversy on social media. Therefore the Committee believes it owes Christ Church and Pastor Wilson an analysis and some counsel regarding these matters. We believe mistakes were made that, in our judgment, helped determine the negative trend the controversy took that reflected badly on Pastor Wilson’s ministry in some circles.

To help communicate where we think mistakes were made and why, we want to begin by making some suggestions for responding to internet allegations that are critical of a pastor’s ministry, especially when those criticisms are made by a victim, and most especially when they are made by a victim who was under the church’s pastoral care or counseling. The bottom line is to always take the high road. We are hoping to help point a path that leads to the high road.

Suggestions for Responding to Internet Allegations

Qualifications:

  1. We are addressing situations where one believes the criticisms are unwarranted, nonfactual, and unfair. If not, the high road is clear: Own it.
  2. We are addressing responses to criticism of one’s ministry, not interactions with atheists or others in the public fray.
  3. We are speaking primarily to pastors and churches. Para-church ministries will have other factors to consider.
  4. These are suggestions to keep in mind, not absolutes, for no one can envision every possible scenario.
  5. We are not attempting anything fancy; we are just trying to apply some Biblical principles of wisdom and humility. We know our suggestions are imperfect and incomplete.

Suggestions:

  1. When an internet controversy erupts criticizing your ministry, especially if it involves a critic who has been a victim or counselee under your care, consider not responding.
    • This is never the most comfortable approach, but it is often the most prudent. It takes two to tango, and the quickest way to stop the music is often to simply refuse to dance.
    • “Not responding” means not responding publicly. We do not mean one should defer from communicating appropriately and non-publicly with one’s congregation, board members, contributors, etc.
  1. If it is determined that a response is required (i.e., it is both beneficial and prudent):
    1. If possible, have the response issued by an officer or representative who is not at the center of the controversy, and have it posted on the organizational website rather than a personal website, such as a pastor’s blog.
      • Personal websites can then link, if appropriate, to the organizational post — and if it is linked, let it speak for itself.
    1. In the response, be minimal, factual, sympathetic, and deferential.
      • The goal is not to engage in debate, but to express sympathy and humility, and to provide basic information, as constricted by the needs of any victims, so the public can gauge the sincerity and humility of your church/ministry, and understand that the best response for fair-minded people is to withhold judgment and pray for all concerned.
      • Remember that your intended audience is fair-minded people of good will, which are the only people you have a chance of appealing to in any event. Hardened critics who arc grinding an axe and those who are using the controversy to promote a larger agenda are never going to be influenced by your responses.
      • Avoid rhetorical flourishes and other stylistic elements that can further incite and prolong the controversy.
      • Be sympathetic and humble, and sound sympathetic and humble, especially if a victim is one of your critics. Even if you have grounds to believe your critics are being nonfactual and unfair, remember that there are certain things you can and should always be sympathetic and humble about, including (1) the evil of the sin, abuse, or crime involved, and the human suffering caused by it; and (2) the fact that no matter how much effort was made to help the victim(s) and the overall situation, it is never enough; there is always more that could or should have been done; and what has been done always falls short of what the love, grace, and righteousness of Christ fully require. Humility and sorrow should always be expressed for these things.
  1. Once you have complied with step 2, try to sit silently and let the storm blow over.
    • If you are a blogger, blog on something else, but not on anything that could be taken as an oblique comment on the controversy.
    • If another response becomes necessary, repeat step 2.
  1. If steps 1–3 have been followed and persistent attacks threaten significant damage to your ministry:
    • Retain the services of a qualified attorney to advise and represent your church.
    • Attorneys chosen for this type of work should have experience in representing Christian ministries, be familiar with laws of defamation, and have an appropriate sensitivity in dealing with genuine victims.
    • Once an attorney is hired, allow the law firm to be the point of contact and the entity who seeks to deter those making false and defamatory statements.

Pastor Wilson’s Blogging Responses
With those principles in mind, we turn to Pastor Wilson’s blogging responses to critics regarding the Sitler and Wight cases. To begin with, we note that a number of posts and articles by critics of Pastor Wilson were factually inaccurate or else materially incomplete, and that others picked up the allegations and repeated them without fully delving into the complex facts. As a result, serious allegations were picked up and repeated uncritically. We are completely sympathetic with the sense of unfair play that this created.

All of that being true, it is also true, in our judgment, that Pastor Wilson’s blog posts did not always reflect the principles we have tried to enunciate, and as a result they helped inflame the controversy rather than calm it. In saying this, we are speaking about Pastor Wilson’s blogging with regard to the Sitler and Wight controversies, not his blogging in general.

Wit, jauntiness, playful mischievousness — these can make writing more interesting, fun, and memorable. This is no less true of Christian writing, as the works of G.K. Chesterton attest. Moreover, when one is contending with mockers of the faith or engaging a pointedly godless culture, as Pastor Wilson often has done, satire, ridicule, and sometimes even shocking rhetoric can be appropriate.20

Pastor Wilson’s effectiveness as a contender for the faith has been noted by many, including Ross Douthat of the New York Times.21 That is all good. But when it comes to matters such as the Sitler and Wight cases, especially when victims are involved, an entirely different voice needs to be heard — one clad not in battle regalia, but in a humble linen tunic. Not only is this glorifying to God and the right thing to do, it is a kindness to victims, as well as to internet onlookers, who may already be confused by the allegations, and who will likely become even more confused by pastoral responses made with sword and mace. Had biblical humility and prudence been placed more to the fore — and that is what our suggestions are trying to express — we believe it would have placed Pastor Wilson and the entire controversy on a higher road.

In that regard, let us point out a few specifics we believe are inconsistent with the high road:

  • Engaging in online disputes with a person formerly under a pastor’s care, particularly when the person has been sexually abused in any way. It is not wise for a pastor to argue with a sex abuse victim in public over the details of her case. It would be better for the pastor to absorb any wrongful accusations rather than engage in this kind of argument (I Cor 6:7).
  • Discussing sensitive pastoral cases online. Such discussion can make others who need help more reluctant to seek it, for fear of having their cases turned into blog posts or Twitter fodder. It can also give the impression that a church is not a place where victims’ voices can be heard (and all too often victims’ voices have been suppressed in the church). While many in the general public may have no qualms about such discussions of personal matters, pastors should always take the high road.
  • Using unnecessarily provocative language, including derogatory or calloused language about women. Referring to certain women as “small breasted biddies” or “lumberjack dykes” is not likely to serve an edifying purpose in this context. We note that this language has caused a good deal of anguish among pastors and elders of CREC churches who would otherwise be supportive of Pastor Wilson’s ministry. Pastors should be careful not to give women reasons to avoid seeking help from the church. Instead, we should make it clear that the church is a place where all people are treated with honor and respect, and where victims can find grace.

In this particular case, Pastor Wilson’s rhetoric has, unfortunately, been found offensive and inappropriate even by many in his own denomination (including other pastors and elders). Pastor Wilson’s blog posts regarding these cases have proved to be quite divisive even amongst those who consider him a friend and ally. A more prudent and temperate use of language would be helpful.

Admittedly, there are times when pastors must be willing to fight. Pastors cannot shy away from necessary controversies. We appreciate the fact that Pastor Wilson is often an effective controversialist for worthwhile causes. But at the same time, we believe pastors should be very careful that they do not enter controversy for the sake of controversy, since often it will not serve the cause of the gospel.

In conclusion, pastors who engage in social media should always be aware of the fact that blogging and tweeting do not have well-defined audiences and contexts the way a sermon does in a local congregation. The lack of context and the amorphous nature of one’s audience means that these forms of communication are always open to causing a great deal of collateral damage. We should speak as if the world is listening to us because unbelievers very well might “overhear” what we are saying. When considering whether to make a post on social media concerning sexual abuse, a pastor must ask himself, “Would a victim of abuse find my words pastorally helpful?” and “Will my words encourage such a person to seek my counsel?”

Those who know Pastor Wilson personally know that he cares deeply for people in his congregation and that his online persona is not a complete picture of the man he is as a pastor. However, blogging on these topics — especially when specific names and situations are brought up — is not a useful pastoral practice.

Principles for Christians Engaging on Social Media
Since activity on social media has become so pervasive in today’s world, including among Christians, the Committee has here set forth some basic principles for Christians to consider when engaging in discussions and debates on line.

Sociologists have observed that much of what is posted on social media is the equivalent of village gossip — except the internet village can quickly swell to millions of people and the poster lacks the deterrence of knowing he will likely run into the object of his gossip at the local super market.22 If social media is a village, and we as Christians frequent the village, the principles by which we conduct ourselves should come from God’s word and should distinguish us as Christians. To make that possible, here are a few biblical guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. God holds us, as his children, to a high standard. Even in the midst of conflict and disagreement, we must treat our opponent as we would want to be treated.

    “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it” (Ex 23:4–5; cf. Dt 22:1, 4, which applies the same standard to “brothers.”)

    “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (Lev 19:16–18).

    For anyone professing Christ, the ends do not justify the means. The fact that someone is our “enemy” or “hates us” does not justify our treating them unfairly or unjustly. We, before God, owe our “enemy” an affirmative duty to not declare all-out war on them, and, further, to affirmatively keep them from unjust harm when it is in our power to do so. That does not rule out fair debate, including answering folly as folly (Prov 26:5), but it does rule out writing one’s opponent off, thinking they deserve whatever they get, or taking a “by any means necessary” approach to diminishing them or their reputation.

  1. Treating opponents with biblical fairness and due process is one of our main forms of witness, especially in the midst of an internet culture which frequently does the opposite.

    “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has God so near to it . . . ?” (Dt 4:5–7).

    “As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30).

    Social media is a relatively new phenomenon, yet the pervasiveness and harshness of antagonism on social media are already legendary, even among members of the same advocacy groups who supposedly agree with one another. As Christians, we must be seen to operate according to a different standard. No difference, no witness.

  1. Biblical fairness demands that we remember that the truth is often contrary to first appearance.

    “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17).

    Truth and justice require careful sorting and weighing of all the relevant evidence, something that social media is ill-suited and typically disinclined to provide.

  1. Biblical fairness demands that we remember that accusations and outrage are not evidence.

    “You shall not circulate a false report . . . You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice” (Ex 23:1–2).

    One of the first instructions a judge gives to a trial jury is that the accusation or charge against the defendant is not evidence. Evidence has to do with facts — what actually happened, not with what is alleged to have happened. Internet justice, like mob justice, is typically in a rush to form public opinion, and therefore relies not on careful sorting of evidence, but on accusation and outrage to quickly form a crowd to take up the shout The underlying premise is that if an accusation is repeated enough times with enough outrage, it must be true. But since neither accusation nor outrage constitute evidence, repeating an accusation a thousand times with increasing outrage is a thousand times zero, which is still zero.

  1. Biblical fairness demands that we remember that identity justice is not justice.

    “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Lev 19:15).

    Martin Luther King, Jr., dreamed of a society where his children would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. That was a plea against identity politics. Victims and offenders are determined by the facts of a particular case as determined through biblical due process, not by class, identity politics, or other wrong behavior (real or imagined) not related to the case at hand.

  1. Biblical fairness demands that if we use social media to accuse someone of wrongdoing, to the extent of our ability, we should give the public the same information they would receive as a jury in a courtroom.

    “The first one to plead his cause seems tight, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17).

    “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any inquiry or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you” (Dt 19:15–20).

    “Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked” (Ex23:7).

    If we present evidence via social media suggesting that someone should be condemned or censured in the eyes of the public, we have functionally put ourselves in the position of a prosecutor. One of the requirements for prosecutors is that they disclose all relevant, admissible evidence in their possession, especially any evidence favorable to the accused, including evidence tending to undermine the credibility of prosecution witnesses. These principles have their roots in basic biblical fairness and due process, and as Christians, we ought to heed them on social media.

 

 

Appendix A
SITLER CASE ANNOTATED TIMELINE
Idaho v. Steven James Sitler
Case No. CR-2005-2027
2nd Judicial District Court in and for Latah County, Idaho

What is included

  • This timeline is comprised of events documented in the public portion of the court record, with limited exception (e.g., the immediate lead up to law enforcement involvement). It should be noted that law enforcement reports are not typically part of the court file, and that a number of items that are part of the court file are typically sealed and unavailable to the public, especially in cases involving child sexual assault. Examples of sealed items include: (1) the Latah County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) investigation referral to Prosecuting Attorney (PA) Bill Thompson; (2) various affidavits from experts; (3) the presentence investigation report (PSI); (4) the Sexual Offender Classification Board (SOCB) report; and (5) the identity of child victims. The facts revealed in a couple of law enforcement reports (with the identities of the child victims excised) have been included only because the reports were (somehow) obtained and circulated on the internet.
  • Explanatory notes appear in the timeline occasionally. For example:

    NOTE: Courts often ‘retain jurisdiction’ at sentencing in sexual molestation cases, for it effectively allows the court to have two bites at the apple in terms of sentencing . . .”

Abbreviation Guide

DC Defense Counsel
DOC Idaho Department of Corrections
IDHW Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
LCSO Latah County Sheriff’s Office
NICI North Idaho Correctional Institution, also known as Cottonwood, after the nearby town
PA Prosecuting Attorney
PO Probation Officer
PSI Presentence Investigation Report
ROA Court Clerk’s Record of Action (a listing of all the court filings in the case)
SOCB Idaho Sexual Offender Classification Board

Citations
Citations to documents filed with the court consist of the document title, the filing date, and the pertinent page number(s). Example: Defense Review Hearing Memo, 2006-04-20 at 12.

Citations to the court clerk’s Record of Action (known as the “Docket Sheet” in many jurisdictions) consist of the abbreviation “ROA” followed by the pertinent date. Example: ROA, 2006-04-20.

Citations to committee interviews are by the name of the party interviewed followed by the date of the interview. Example: Wullenwaber Interview, 2015-12-01.

Fall 2003 – Spring 2005

  • Steven Sitler of Colville, WA, is a student at New Saint Andrews College (NSA) in Moscow, Idaho, and boards with a family which attends Christ Church and is long­-term friends of Sitler’s family (Interview of Moscow Victims’ Parents, 2015-11-05).

2005-03-10 (approximate)

  • Steven Sitler is confronted by the father of the family and admits to molesting two of his children (Interview of Moscow Victims’ Parents, 2015-11-05). The father tells Sitler he can stay the night, but must move out the next day (ibid.).
    • NOTE: Sitler’s defense counsel (DC) Dean Wullenwaber says that Sitler slept in his car that night (Wullenwaber Interviews, 2015-11-24 and 12-01).

2005-03-11

  • The victims’ father contacts Pastor Douglas Wilson, relates what Sitler admitted, and asks for advice on what to do (Interview of Moscow Victims’ Parents, 2015-11-05).
  • Douglas Wilson contacts attorney Greg Dickison, a member of Christ Church. Wilson relates what the father reported and requests advice on what the parents should do. Dickison says the conduct is a felony, and the parents should contact the sheriff’s office immediately (Interview of Moscow Victims’ Parents, 2015-11-05).
  • Douglas Wilson relays Dickison’s advice to the victims’ father (Interview of Moscow Victims’ Parents, 2015-11-05).
  • The victims’ father contacts the Latah County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) (Interview of Moscow Victims’ Parents, 2015-11-05); Wullenwaber Interviews, 2015-11-24 and 12-01); Public Statement of LCSO PIO Jennifer McFarland at 2). The father assures the LCSO that “the victims are no longer in danger” because the “suspect no longer has access to the children” (McFarland Statement at 2).
  • Steven Sitler visits Pastor Douglas Wilson and confesses his previously admitted conduct, as well as additional sexual conduct involving other children (Defense Clarifications, 2006-04-19 at 12; Defense Review Hearing Memo, 2006-04-20 at 12). Wilson advises Sitler to confess and accept responsibility for all of his sexual molestation conduct, not just what he got caught on.
  • Sitler is summarily expelled from New St. Andrew’s College (NSA) (Defense Clarifications, 2006-04-19 at 12; Defense Review Hearing Memo, 2006-04-20 at 12).
  • Sitler drives to Colville, WA, where he resides with his parents until his sentencing in Sep 2005 (Defense Review Hearing Memo, 2006-04-20 at 12; Wullenwaber Interviews, 2015-11-24 and 12-01).

2005-03-14

  • David Sitler (Steven’s father) contacts Lewiston attorney Dean Wullenwaber rerepresenting Steven (Wullenwaber Interviews, 2015-11-24 and 12-01).

2005-03-15

  • Wullenwaber enters contract with David Sitler to represent Steven as Defense Counsel (DC) (Wullenwaber Interviews, 2015-11-24 and 12-01).
  • Wullenwaber notifies LCSO and Latah County Prosecuting Attorney (PA) Bill Thompson that he is representing Steven Sitler, and that Sitler will be made available for interview and will cooperate with the investigation (Affidavit of Dean Wullenwaber, 2005-09-26 Attachment 1).

2005-03-20

  • Session of Emmanuel Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Colville, WA) sends letter to congregation:
    1. Sitler has been suspended indefinitely from the privileges of membership and forbidden to attend any of the ministries of the church due to a serious and persistent pattern of egregious sexual immorality;
    2. The session is cooperating with an ongoing police investigation;
    3. Sitler acted “as his own accuser;”
    4. “The church is being asked . . . to join the elders in helping this person in his spiritual journey. This person is still to be given the comfort of Christ as part of his flock” (Letter of Defense Counsel Dean Wullenwaber to the Court, Aug 29, 2005, Enclosure 5 (Letter of Pastor Jack Bradley to the Court, Aug 23, 2005, enclosing two letters to congregation dated March 20 and July 17, 2005).

2005-03-22

  • Two minor female victims (sisters) interviewed by LCSO Detective Margaret Lehmbecker and IDHW Case Worker Jackie Strain (Lehmbecker Report, 2005-03-22). The girls disclosed:
    1. Sitler and a couple of other college students boarded with the girls’ family 2004–05.
    2. The older sister said she awoke in the night to find Sitler rubbing her “bottom” in late Feb 2005. Sitler also touched similarly a visitor girl who was spending the night. The visitor girl told her parents.
    3. The younger sister said that Sitler came into her room and fondled her under her nightgown but on top of her underwear on many occasions (almost every night) over the last year.

2005-03-29 – 05-31

  • Correspondence between DC Wullenwaber, LCSO, and PA Thompson regarding LCSO’s investigation referral (25 pages of investigative reports and attachments) and setting up an interview of Sitler with Wullenwaber present (Affidavit of Dean Wullenwaber, 2005-09-26 Attachments 2 – 7).
    • NOTE: It has been questioned whether Sitler was ever interviewed by law enforcement. This cannot be conclusively determined from the court file, inasmuch as it does not contain publicly available reports of such an interview — and indeed, it would be unusual for such reports to appear in the court file. What does appear is correspondence between DC Wullenwaber, PA Thompson, and the LCSO in which (1) Wullenwaber represents that he and Sitler will be cooperative with the investigation, and that he will make Sitler available for an interview (with Wullenwaber present, which is typical — it would be virtual malpractice and ineffective assistance for defense counsel to be absent); and (2) Wullenwaber and Thompson discuss the arrangements for Sitler’s interview (Affidavit of Dean Wullenwaber, 2005-09-26 Attachments 1-2, 4-7). The court file also contains correspondence between DC Wullenwaber and Probation Officer (PO) Jackye Squire Leonard promising Sitler’s cooperation and arranging an interview for purposes of the Presentence Investigation Report (PSI), which the judge will use for sentencing (Affidavit of Dean Wullenwaber, 2005-09-26 Attachments 8-9). In that correspondence, Wullenwaber states, “[Sitler’s] intent from the beginning has been that no young person would have to testify; and I told Bill Thompson during our pre-agreement discussions that Steven would provide more information than investigator Lehmbecker gathered” (ibid., Attachment 9, email of 2005-07-19 20:04).

2005-07-06

  • Criminal Complaint filed, charging Sitler with one count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under age 16 in violation of Idaho Code 18-1508, a felony (Criminal Complaint, 2005-07-06). The Complaint alleges that between Sep 2003 and Mar 2005 Sitler committed “acts of manual-genital and genital-genital contact or other lewd and lascivious acts upon the body of a minor female (ibid.).

2005-07-07

  • Initial Appearance, at which Sitler waives Preliminary Hearing, and is bound over to District Court (Order Binding Over Defendant, 2005-08-07).
    • NOTE: Waiving the Preliminary Hearing is a significant concession by the defense. Ordinarily, defense counsel will use the Preliminary Hearing as an opportunity to learn and test the state’s case, which can sometimes include subpoenaing and cross­ examining the victim(s). Testifying can be traumatic for the child victim(s), and for that reason is often opposed by the parents, all of which can put pressure on the prosecutor to plead down the case to avoid having the child(ren) testify. Sitler’s waiving of his right to a Preliminary Hearing is consistent with DC Wullenwaber’s claim that one of the defense’s goal from the beginning was to ensure that no child would have to testify (Affidavit of Dean Wullenwaber, 2005-09-26 Attachment 9 (Wullenwaber email to PO Jackye Squire Leonard, 2005-07-19 20:04); Wullenwaber Interview 2015-12-01).
  • Sitler is arraigned and pleads guilty pursuant to a Rule 11 Plea Agreement (Court Minutes, 2005-07-07; Rule 11 Plea Agreement, 2005-07-07). The agreement provides inter alia:
    1. Sitler will plead guilty to a single count Information charging a violation of Idaho Code (IC) 18-1508 (the Information mirrors the Complaint) (ibid.).
    2. The state will not charge Sitler with other similar crimes based on facts he discloses (ibid.). The agreement acknowledges that Sitler had made known through counsel that he had committed other, similar acts on minors in other jurisdictions, one of which was Stevens County, WA, and that the Stevens County prosecutor had agreed not to charge Sitler in view of the fact that (1) Stevens County would not have known of Sitler’s crimes apart from his self-disclosure, and (2) Sitler agreed to pay restitution to the Stevens County victims (ibid.; these terms are memorialized in a letter from Stevens County Prosecutor John Wetle dated July 7, 2005, attached as Ex A to the Plea Agreement; see also Def. Rev. Hrg Memo filed 2006-04-20 at 18 (“Steven confessed to many more incidents that were known to the authorities; and, with one exception, he confessed to all of the incidents before the victims reported”)).
    3. The state will not recommend sentence greater than judgment of conviction with the court retaining jurisdiction, and otherwise the parties are free to make whatever recommendation they want (ibid.);
    4. Sitler will cooperate fully with the Presentence Investigation Report (PSI) process and will undergo at his own expense a comprehensive psychosexual evaluation, the report of which will be provided to the court (ibid.);
    5. Sitler will pay restitution to his victims (ibid.).

    • NOTE: According to DC Wullenwaber, Sitler had, to the best of Wullenwaber’s recollection, 14 “touching” victims and 3 “sight” (voyeurism) victims. Of the “touching victims,” most were under 12, all were non-consensual (by law), none were “forcible,” and many of the victims did not know the touching had occurred (for they were asleep, etc).
    • NOTE: The question has been raised as to whether the plea agreement was unduly favorable to Sitler, inasmuch as he was charged with only one count of sexual molestation, whereas he admitted to many more. In assessing the justness of the plea agreement, the following considerations should be born in mind: (1) the state learned of Sitler’s other (uncharged) molestations only by virtue of Sitler’s admissions, and the LCSO’s attempts to interview other child victims went “without fruition” (Public Statement of LCSO POI Jennifer McFarland at 2); (2) Sitler pleaded guilty to a crime carrying the possibility of life imprisonment (see Idaho Code 18-1508), and thus adding more charges would not increase his maximum sentencing exposure; (3) the presentence investigation report (PSI) would include, and in sentencing Sitler the judge would lawfully consider, not only the criminal conduct Sitler pleaded guilty to, but the entire pattern of his admitted serial molestations (Interview of PA Bill Thompson 2016-03-08; Idaho Criminal Rule 32); (4) the sentencing judge would also receive and consider a psycho-sexual evaluation of Sitler, which would be based on Sitler’s entire known history of pedophile activities; (5) because of the plea bargain and Sitler’s admissions, the state was able to get restitution for the other victims and to notify their parents, who could then seek professional help in evaluating the damage to, and needs of, their child(ren); (6) the plea bargain avoided the need for any child victim to testify, something that would be essential if the case went to trial, and something that is often adamantly opposed by the parents of child victims in order to avoid added trauma to the child. For all of these reasons, the plea bargain in this case would be highly attractive to a prosecutor, who would likely conclude (justifiably) that they had achieved far more under the plea bargain than they would at trial.

2005-07-08 – 07-25

  • Correspondence between DC Wullenwaber and PO Jackye Squire Leonard, who is charged with preparing the Presentence Investigation Report (PSI):
    • Wullenwaber indicates that Sitler will give “full cooperation,” that Sitler is “intent from the beginning has been that no young person would have to testify,” and that, as represented previously to Prosecutor Bill Thompson, Sitler “would provide more information than [the LCSO] investigator . . . gathered” (Affidavit of Dean Wullenwaber, 2005-09-25 Attachments 8 – 9).
    • Wullenwaber indicates that Sitler has seen Steve Lindsley (Certified Sex Offender Treatment Provider) on Juy 12, 2005, and is scheduled for a second appointment in mid-August (ibid.).
    • Sitler’s presentence investigation interview is set for 2005-08-17 (ibid. attachment 9).

2005-09-08

  • Psycho-sexual Evaluation of Sitler filed (sealed) (ROA 1).

2005-09-12

  • Addendum to Pre-sentence Report filed (confidential) (ROA 1).
  • Sentencing continued to Sep 26, 2005, per stipulation of the parties (Order re Calendaring filed 2005-09-14; Stipulation filed 2005-09-12; Clerk’s Record of Action Report (ROA) 1).

2005-09-23

  • Defense Sentencing Memorandum filed along with eight letters on behalf of Sitler, including one from Pastor Douglas Wilson (Defense Sentencing Memo filed 2005-09-23 and attachments; ROA at 1).
    • Letter from Pastor Douglas Wilson to Judge Stegner, dated Aug 19, 2005:
      • General: Was asked to provide letter on behalf of Sitler. Was involved in providing counseling to victims’ family; encouraged them to take case to the authorities. Was also involved in providing counsel to Sitler; about a “half a dozen” sessions.
      • Specifics: Did not offer Sitler “spiritual panacea or quick fix.” Believes he understands the “importance of his need to resist these temptations over the long haul.” Has assigned him to read a number of books. Sitler has been “most responsive and . . . completely honest.” “When we first began, I can honestly say that Steven did not know the real nature of his problem. He was certainly aware of the magnitude of it, and was aware of the legal consequences, but I don’t believe he had a good grasp of why he had felt compelled to act in the way he had acted.” “In our sessions, he was completely open and honest with me, confessing aspects of his private behavior and thought life that I would have had no other way of ascertaining.”
      • Recommendation: Is “grateful” Sitler was “caught,” “brought to account . . . so early in his life,” “that he will be sentenced for his behavior, and that there will be hard consequences for him.” “At the same time, I would urge that the civil penalties applied would be measured and limited. I have good hope that Steven has genuinely repented, and that he will continue to deal with this to become a productive and contributing member of society.”
    • NOTE: Questions have been raised as to the effect of Pastor Wilson’s letter on Sitler’s sentencing. It would be highly unusual for a judge to give much weight to a letter from a pastor (Interview of Dean Wullenwaber 2015-12-01; Interview of PA Bill Thompson 2016-03-08). According to DC Wullenwaber, a sentencing recommendation from the defendant’s pastor would carry about as much weight as one from the defendant’s mother (Wullenwaber Interview). Far more influential on the judge would be the Presentence Investigation Report (PSI), the psycho-sexual evaluation report, reports and recommendations from other experts in the case (i.e., psychologists, etc), and letters from victims or their parents, particularly if they are measured and well-reasoned (Thompson and Wullenwaber Interviews). A review of the court record in this case bears that out, for it is clear that Sitler’s sentencing turned on a battle of the experts, and further that after Sitler’s initial sentencing, virtually all subsequent sentencing adjustments (including probation and the terms thereof) were pursuant to stipulated, joint recommendations from the prosecution and the defense (see, e.g., Stipulation Regarding Retained Jurisdiction, 2006-05-02; Court Minutes, 2006-05-04; Order Suspending Execution of Sentence and Order of Probation, 2006-05-05; Court Minutes, 2007-09-07; Order Modifying the Defendant’s Terms and Conditions of Probation, 2014-03-11). From the defense perspective, the real purpose of a letter from a pastor, as well as similar letters from former employers, family members, and friends of the defendant, is to show the judge that the defendant has a support structure in the community (something many defendants do not have) and therefore is a better candidate for probation or parole, should the prospect ever arise (Wullenwaber Interview).

2005-09-26

  • Letter from a victim’s family (dated Sep 7, 2005) presented by PA Thompson to the court during sentencing:
    • Facts: “When [our child] was only two years old, Steve offered to take [our child] downstairs and watch [him/her] while the adults were talking upstairs. At that time he forced [our child] to kiss his erect penis.”
    • Concern: “We have a small fear of impending injustice based on the short history since Steven’s admission of guilt. . . . [W]e have watched for the last six months as an admitted child molester has been living in the comforts of his parent’s home, whiling away the days that should be spent in jail. After talking with the prosecution there is a chance, however slight, that this could go on as parole time after Steven serves as little as six months being ‘evaluated.’”
    • Recommendation: “We are hoping and praying that six months evaluation followed by parole at home will not be the case. However, neither do we desire to see Steven serve a life sentence. We do desire him to go to prison and pay for his crimes.” “[A]s grieved parents [we] ask that Steven’s crimes be paid for, regardless of whether he came forward with extra information after he was caught.” “[W]e are not asking for vengeance but justice compatible with Steven’s crimes.”
  • Sentencing hearing (Court Minutes, 2005-09-26; Judgment of Conviction, 2005-10-12).
    1. The court noted that it had reviewed the PSI, Addendum to PSI, Psycho-Sexual Evaluation, Defense Clarification to Psycho-Sexual Evaluation, and the various correspondence.
    1. The court accepted the Rule 11 Plea Agreement pursuant to the urging of both parties.
    1. No victims appeared to make a live statement under oath pursuant to IC 19-5306.
    1. Sitler made a statement to the court (content currently unavailable).
    1. Both attorneys made recommendations regarding sentence (content currently unavailable).
    1. Sitler found guilty as charged per his guilty plea.
    1. Restitution hearing set for Dec 5, 2005, unless parties stipulate to amount ahead of time.
    1. Sentence:
      • Five years minimum confinement with the Idaho State Board of Corrections (BOC) (this is a “determinate sentence,” meaning that there is no eligibility for parole for five years).
      • Life term commitment to BOC following the five year term (the life term is “indeterminate,” meaning that Sitler is parole eligible after five years).
      • The court retains jurisdiction for 180 days, during which time Sitler will be evaluated by the Idaho Sexual Offender Classification Board (SOCB) to determine whether he should be designated a “violent sexual predator presenting a high risk of reoffense”). Review of retained jurisdiction is set for Feb 27, 2006.
        • NOTE: Courts often “retain jurisdiction” at sentencing in sexual molestation cases, for it effectively allows the court to have two bites at the apple in terms of sentencing. By retaining jurisdiction, the court temporarily places the defendant in the DOC so that he can be psycho­sexually evaluated at the Cottonwood facility, and then the court re­sentences the defendant with the benefit of the psycho-sexual report.
      • Fine in the amount of $5000 plus $288.50 in court costs.
      • Civil judgment in the amount of $4000 to be distributed to the victims pursuant to IC 19-5307.
      • Sitler remanded to the custody of LCSO pending delivery to the DOC.

2006-01-31

  • Sexual Offender Classification Board findings made available by the court to the parties (Judge Stegner Letter, 2006-01-31).

2006-02-27

  • Hearing on retained jurisdiction continued to Apr 21, 2006, and retained jurisdiction extended for an additional 30 days based on stipulation of the parties and the court’s determination that it could not obtain and evaluate the relevant information within the original 180-day period (Order, 2006-02-27).

2006-03-14

  • Court orders additional psycho-sexual testing (pursuant to stipulation by the parties) by private Psychologist Greg Wilson, Ph.D. Sitler to be transported by LCSO to Wilson’s office on Mar 24, 2006, and then returned to Latah County Jail (Order, 2006-03-14).

2006-04-05

  • Court orders Sexual Offender Classification Board (SOCB) to provide copy of underlying psycho-sexual evaluation to Psychologist Greg Wilson pursuant to stipulation of the parties and the Idaho AG’s Office; DC Wullenwaber may see the evaluation but not the raw test data, and Sitler may see neither (Order, 2006-04-05).

2006-04-18 – 20

  1. The Motion to Exclude and supporting Affidavit ask the court to exclude certain psychological tests, and to exclude or limit certain psychological opinions, used in Sitler’s SOCB/SOAG evaluation and findings. The Motion and Affidavit argue that:
    1. A number of the tests administered to Sitler as part of the SOCB evaluation lack reliability or validity, including at least one test that was favorable to him (Affidavit at 3-9).
    2. “The American Psychological Association is strongly trying to discourage people from engaging in th[e] kind of guess work” involved in gauging a sexual offender’s likelihood of recidivism as “low,” “medium,” or “high” (Affidavit at 9).
    3. “Recidivism rates should be discussed only in terms of environmental variables and the complex interactions between the individual and the environment. The question should be: is there or is there not enough similarity in the environmental circumstances to the point where we can reasonably predict with accuracy that there is going to be a relapse? With pedophiles, we move into a much easier area to be able to describe the environmental circumstances than is the case with many other sorts of crimes” (Affidavit at 9).
  1. The Defense Clarifications re NICI Document is cryptic, for it is quoting and responding to a confidential document. However, it does contain brief quotes and characterizations, as well as counter-arguments, from which the following can be gleaned:
    1. Sitler was in the NICI Sex-Offender Assessment Group (SOAG) for approximately three months (Clarifications at 8). Sitler was compliant, did not cause trouble, and completed 10 of 11 assignments (with 9 to 11 of 11 being typical) (ibid. at 8-9). The one Sitler did not turn in was probably the last assignment pertaining to “Relapse Prevention” (ibid. at 8).
    2. Sitler’s Clinician at NICI was Brad Lutz of the SOAG, who signed the SOAG Summary. The following can be gleaned regarding Lutz’s opinion and the defense’s response:
      • Lutz told Sitler at his “End-Case” that the SOAG was going to recommend “relinquishment” (i.e., that the court relinquish jurisdiction to the DOC, which would mean that Sitler would serve his five years determinate and then be eligible for parole as determined by the DOC) (ibid.). The SOAG Summary signed by Lutz, as well as the Addendum to the Pre-Sentence Report signed by PO Naomi Laurino, apparently recommended “relinquishment” (ibid.).
      • Lutz’s recommendation of relinquishment appears to have been driven primarily by his conclusion that Sitler “should be considered a high risk to reoffend based on past history” (ibid. at 10); that “Sitler appears to present to[o] high of a risk to the community to release him on probation until he has completed in-patient intense sex-offender treatment” (ibid. at 11); and that his “risk to reoffend appears to be too high without completing sex-offender treatment prior to release” (ibid.).
      • In response to these items, the defense pointed out to the court that (1) Idaho has no sex-offender treatment program in the DOC (which means that if Sitler is to receive intensive sex-offender treatment, he cannot get it in prison) (ibid. at 4, 11); and (2) Lutz later clarified that “in-patient” does not necessarily mean “in prison,” as Idaho has no in-prison program (ibid. at 10, 11).
        • NOTE: This is a recurring conundrum in Idaho, for over 95% of sex offenders are paroled at some point, according to an Idaho Supervisory Probation Officer. Add to this the fact that Idaho does not have intensive sexual offender treatment available for prison inmates. The question for judges at sentencing often becomes, Do I want the sex-offender paroled with treatment or without? If the judge places a sex-offender on probation, intensive treatment can be made a condition of probation, with prison hanging over the offender’s head if he steps out of line. But if the judge relinquishes jurisdiction to the DOC, the court loses all control, and the sex offender could possibly be paroled with no treatment.
      • Lutz was apparently also concerned that Sitler’s parents would have the mentality that “since he has confessed . . . no further work needs to be done,” and that Steven would adopt the same mentality (ibid.). The defense responded (1) that Lutz had never spoken with Sitler’s parents, nor had Steven ever expressed such an attitude (ibid. at 3, 10), and (2) that PA Bill Thompson had met with Sitler’s parents and apparently had formed a different opinion than Lutz (ibid.).
      • It appears that three other experts, Steven Lindsley, M.S. (Certified Sex Offender Treatment Provider), Clinician Ed Cheeney, M.S., of the DOC, and Clinical Psychologist Greg Wilson, Ph.D., disagreed with Lutz’s conclusions, except for his conclusion that Sitler should receive “intensive sex-offender treatment [from] a highly qualified provider” (which is apparently only available outside prison) (ibid. at 2, 4, 7).
        • NOTE: The fact that Cheeney is a DOC Clinician indicates that there may have been disagreement among the State’s experts (ibid. at 4). If so, that would tend to weaken the DOC’s position before the court.
  1. The Defense Review Hearing Memorandum argues the defense position regarding the court’s review of retained jurisdiction (which essentially is a re-sentencing with the benefit of the various psycho-sexual evaluations and recommendations). The defense argues that the court should retain jurisdiction over Sitler for the following reasons:
    1. Clinician Ed Cheeney, M.S., who did the Sitler’s psycho-sexual evaluation for the DOC, Certified Sex Offender Treatment Provider Steven Lindsley, M.S., and Clinical Psychologist Gregory Wilson, Ph.D., “all recommend immediate and intensive community-based sex offender treatment for this 21-year old” (Memo at 1-2).
    2. “Relinquishing jurisdiction would be counterproductive to society (1) because there is no intensive sex offender treatment available in the DOC (ibid. at 2, 6); and (2) because of the importance of environmental circumstances in effective treatment” (ibid. at 2). The Memo cites the DOC Annual Statistical Report for Fiscal Year 2005 to argue that:
      • The DOC does not require sex offenders to complete sex offender treatment prior to being released from prison (ibid. at 10-11);
      • Idaho had approximately 1162 sex offenders in prison at the time of the report (ibid.);
      • Of those 1162, only about 60 (about 5% of the sex offender population) can participate in a sex offender treatment group at any given time, for there are only five sex offender groups, each with a maximum of 12 participants (ibid.);
      • Moreover, the sex offender treatment groups are reserved for those about to complete their prison terms, in order to prepare them for parole board hearings and for community-based sex offender treatment (ibid.); and
      • If Sitler were given probation with the requirement of intensive sex-offender treatment, he would have a life sentence hanging over his head, thus providing him with sufficient deterrence from reoffending, and providing a clear signal to the community of the seriousness of the offenses (ibid. at 2, 22).

2006-04-20

  • Court retains jurisdiction for another 180 days (with no objection from either party) to allow “counsel to review matters and to determine the appropriate course in this case,” during which time Sitler will remain in LCSO’s custody (Court Minutes, 2006-04-20 at 1; Order Retaining Jurisdiction, 2006-04-21 at 2). Hearing on defense’s Motion to Exclude reset for May 8, 2006 (Court Minutes at 1-2). Review of retained jurisdiction set for June 6, 2006 (ibid. at 2).

2006-05-02

  • The parties stipulate regarding modification of sentence and jointly recommend that the court:
    1. Suspend the sentence imposed on Oct 12, 2005 (Stipulation Regarding Retained Jurisdiction, 2006-05-02 at 2).
    2. Place Sitler on probation for a life term (ibid.).
    3. Impose the standard terms of probation plus special terms including that Sitler must:
      1. Remain in custody of LCSO for one year with treatment release to obtain treatment from Clinical Psychologist Greg Wilson, Ph.D.;
      2. Not associate with anyone under age 18 without a previously approved adult present;
      3. Not go to any city park or any school (not including college) unless accompanied by an approved chaperon;
      4. Register as a sex offender under IC 18-8304, et seq., and similar laws of other jurisdictions;
      5. Submit to polygraph examinations at Sitler’s expense;
      6. Submit to DNA testing under IC 19-5506;
      7. Pay restitution for the counseling and treatment expenses of all his victims, including those in other jurisdictions (ibid. at 2-3).
    1. Set a review hearing no later than the first week of May 2007 to evaluate Sitler’s status and progress and to determine if any modifications of probation are warranted (ibid. at 3).

2006-05-04

  • Court suspends the balance of Sitler’s prison sentence and places him on probation in accordance with the stipulation of the parties (Order Suspending Execution of Sentence and Order of Probation, 2006-05-05 at 2-9). The court maintains the previous fine of $5000 and court costs of $288.50 (Minutes at 2-3; Order at 6), and sets review of probation for May 4, 2007 (Minutes at 2; Order at 9). Sitler is remanded to the custody of the LCSO for service of his one-year term of incarceration (Minutes at 3).

2006-06-06

  • Sitler enters into treatment contract with Valley Treatment Specialties (Treatment Contract dated 2006-06-06).

2007-05-04

  • Sitler released from LCSO custody and placed on probation with no objection by the prosecution (Court Minutes, 2007-05-04 at 1; Order Modifying Probation, 2007-05-08 at 1). The other conditions of probation remain in effect (Minutes at 2; Order at 1). The court reissued the no contact order regarding the victims for life or until the case is dismissed (Minutes at 2).

2007-05-07

  • Sitler enters into Sexual Offender Agreement of Supervision with Idaho DOC (Agreement dated 2007-05-22).

2007-06-18

  • Sitler self-reports attempted voyeurism (Lombard Letter, 2007-06-18, and Sitler Statement, 2007-06-18 (attachments to Probation Violation Report, 2007-06-19). Sitler reported the incident to counselor Dalton Lombard during the weekly check in for his offender group; Sitler said he used binoculars to look in his neighbor’s window, didn’t see anyone, and that he masturbated; Sitler said that voyeurism was one of the behaviors he had engaged in prior to and leading up to his offenses (ibid.). Lombard reported the incident to PO Jackie Squires: “I consider this to be very high risk behavior for Mr. Sitler considering he had been out of jail less than a month . . . In my mind this behavior constitutes a violation of his parole [sic.] and of his treatment contract. . .” (ibid.).

2007-06-19

  • Probation Violation Report filed June 19, 2007, alleging Sitler violated Condition #4: “will not engage in any deviant behaviors including . . . voyeurism. . . .”
  • Sitler arrested and appears in court (Sheriff’s Return of Warrant Service 2007-06-19; Court Minutes 2007-06-19). During the hearing, PA Thompson reports that Probation had just determined that Sitler’s residence was too close to a daycare center (Court Minutes at 1). Thompson also indicates that he intends to file another allegation of violation of probation for failing to comply with Dr. Lombard’s directions (ibid. at 2). The court fixes bond at $25,000 and orders that Sitler may not return to his current residence except with his PO in order to retrieve his belongings (ibid.).
  • PA Thompson files Notice of Supplemental Probation Violation alleging (1) that Sitler violated probation condition #13, wherein he agreed to “comply with all requirements” of his treatment program; and (2) that he violated condition #17, wherein he agreed to “make continuous progress” in his treatment program (Notice at 1-2).

2007-07-02

  • Court holds status conference during which it states that it has reviewed a polygraph report (Court Minutes 2007-07-02).

2007-09-07

  • The court resolves the probation violation allegations by modifying the terms of Sitler’s probation pursuant to a stipulation of the parties (Court Minutes, 2007-09-07; Second Order Modifying Probation, 2007-09-07). The court added the following terms of probation:
    • Sitler must have an approved chaperone with him whenever he is out of his residence, and must abide by a pre-approved schedule of activities.
    • Sitler “shall have no contact of any nature whatsoever with his victims” or with their immediate families until authorized by his probation officer (PO), which will not occur until after Sitler “completes the empathy group phase of his sex offender treatment program.”
    • Sitler “shall not possess binoculars . . . or any other vision enhancing devices.”
    • “A supervision and treatment team consisting of [Sitler’s PO], Steve Lindsley and Greg Wilson, and others as appropriate, will meet . . . on a regular basis to monitor [Sitler’s] progress and assist the [PO] in giving such direction as may be necessary and appropriate for the furtherance of [Sitler’s] treatment while maintaining the protection of society” (Second Order Modifying Probation 1-3).

2007-12-17

  • The court applies Sitler’s cash bond to his court ordered financial obligations in the amount of $4940.50 and returns the remainder to David Sitler (Amended Order Denying Defendant’s Motion for Release of Cash Bond 2007-12-17).

2011-05-27

  • PA Thompson advises the court of DOC’s opposition to Sitler’s marriage (Thompson Letter 20011-05-27 and attached Lanphier Letter 2011-05-27). Thompson advises the court that DOC’s position was determined by officials in Boise and was “just now communicated to Mr. Lanphier” (Thompson Letter). (NOTE: DC Wullenwaber stated during his interview that DOC officials had expressed approval of the wedding all along, until they reversed their position just ten days before the ceremony (Wullenwaber Interview 2015-12-01).) The DOC’s stated reasons for opposing the wedding were: “If Mr. Sitler was to get married and have children as he has stated are his intentions, the Idaho Department of Correction will face the future decision to have to separate Mr. Sitler’s family, as we cannot allow him to be unsupervised with children” (Lanphier Letter). The DOC noted that they had considered Sitler’s “religious beliefs and his statement of intention to begin having children within a year” (ibid.).

2011-06-01

  • Status Conference Hearing on whether Sitler may marry (Court Minutes 2011-06-01; Transcript of Status Conference 2011-06-01).
    • Prosecutor Bill Thompson left the matter in the court’s discretion (Trans. 30), noting that there are two issues: (1) whether Sitler can or should marry, and (2) whether Sitler can have children, and if he does, whether he has to maintain a separate residence so the children are protected at night (Trans. 28-29). Mr. Thompson noted that “the treatment providers and Mr. Lanphier support the idea of Mr. Sitler being involved in an age-appropriate relationship,” but the sticking point was what to do in the event of children (Trans. 28), and in that regard the Abel test was administered to Sitler, and “fair reading” of the results is that he “still has an elevated interest in prepubescent and adolescent females” (Trans. 29).
    • Defense counsel Dean Wullenwaber (1) argued that the probation department had raised no objection to the wedding until the last minute (Trans. 31), and (2) conceded that there “has to be some mechanism in place if and when children come along . . . where this guy may not be in an unsupervised situation with minor children” (Trans. 32), but stated that the defense was not ready to litigate the details of that issue at present (Trans. 32-33).
    • Court rules that the wedding may proceed on grounds that the wedding is 10 days away, and a lot of water is already under the bridge, but “more importantly, . . . an age-appropriate relationship with a member of the opposite sex . . . is one of the best things that can happen to [Mr. Sitler] and to society” (Trans. 34), for it reduces his likelihood to recidivate, at least on a statistical basis” (Trans. 35). The court further ruled that “if and when Mr. Sitler and Ms. Travis have children, we will cross that bridge when we get to it,” and also observed that “I think it is a reasonable restriction that he not reside with his wife and child in the future, if, in fact they have children” (Trans. 35).

2011-06-01

  • The court orders that Sitler may marry after a status conference in which Senior PO Lanphier testified on behalf of the DOC (Court Minutes 2011-06-01; Order 2011-06-01).

2014-12-22

  • Report of Probation Violation filed alleging that Sitler failed two polygraphs (on Dec 13 and 20, respectively) on the question of whether he had viewed pornography (Report at 1). The Report noted that “maintenance polygraphs are performed once a year to ascertain whether a sex offender is complying with the terms and conditions of his supervision” (Report at 2).
  • Sitler arrested and appears before the court (Court Minutes 2014-12-22; Sheriff’s Return of Warrant Service 2014-12-23).

2014-02-25

  • Status hearing on Report of Probation violation (Court Minutes 2014-02-25).
    • The parties stipulate that Sitler should continue on probation with one additional requirement: that he repeat the After Care Program at Valley Treatment Specialties (Stipulation to Continue Probation 2014-02-25; Minutes at 1). The Stipulation noted that (1) DOC had conducted a forensic examination of Sitler’s computer which revealed no prohibited material; and (2) Sitler had passed all polygraphs with the exception of the two December ones (Stipulation at 1-2).
    • The court grants PA Thompson’s motion to withdraw the Report of Probation Violation, which he made in open court after consulting with DOC (ibid.).

2014-03-11

  • The court orders Sitler to continue on probation in accordance with the parties’ stipulation (Order Modifying the Defendant’s Terms and Conditions of Probation 2014-03-11). The Order (1) notes that the state had withdrawn the Report of Probation Violation; and (2) provides that Sitler must (a) repeat the After Care Program at Valley Treatment Specialties at his own expense, and (b) continue to undergo maintenance polygraphs at his own expense (Order at 1, 2).

2015-03-24

  • Sitler’s child is born (DOB per Katie Sitler).

2015-05-18

  • PO Blaine Holman receives an email from private citizen Rosemary Huskey, which is also addressed to PO District 2 Manager Scott Douglas, and with copies to Judge Stegner, PA Thompson, and Chief David Duke. The email raises concerns about Douglas Wilson, Christ Church, and the Sitler case “based on over a decade of experience with Doug Wilson and Christ Church philosophy” (Affidavit of Mark T. Monson, 2015-07-28, Ex A (Huskey Email) at 4. According to Huskey: “For over a decade I have been known as a public critic, not of their religious beliefs but of their disingenuous hubris in all areas of community life” (Email at 10). In her email, Huskey raises a number of concerns and complaints, including:
    • Complaints about the inability to obtain records from Probation and Parole (Email at 1).
    • Complaints about Douglas and Nancy Wilson’s “celebration of patriarchy, and the notion of covenantal and gender entitlement,” which she contends are “powerful, and arguably key elements, in the creation of Steven Sitler’s psyche” (Email at 2).
    • Concerns that Sitler’s whereabouts were unaccounted for on “the evening of [March] the 10th [2005] and the next day,” as “Steven Sitler did not leave Moscow until 9:00 a.m. the 11th of March” (Email at 3).
    • Complaint that Sitler “has never been questioned” by law enforcement, and that he crossed “state lines on his way to his home in Colville, Washington,” in order to avoid questioning, and Huskey further seems to suggest that Douglas Wilson was behind everything (ibid. at 3-4).
    • Complaints that Douglas Wilson was “uniquely in the center of things and a party to all decisions” due to his relationship with attorneys Greg Dickison (who represented the victims’ family in Moscow) and Dean Wullenwaber (who represented Sitler); and further that Wilson “served as Steven Sitler’s mouthpiece” (Email at 4 (emphasis omitted)). The outcome of this, according to Huskey, was that
      • Sitler was “under the protective care of Christ Church and his parents;”
      • “Sitler’s plea agreement was negotiated based [not on law enforcement interrogation of Sitler, but] on his confessions to Doug Wilson and reported by Doug or Mr. Wullenwaber to the authorities;”
      • The “narrative [which Huskey quotes from a Wilson blog post (Email at 3)] was carefully constructed to minimize damage to the reputation of Christ Church and its pastor while superficially pretending to support law enforcement;”
      • The “abuse was kept under wraps and ‘ordinary’ church members learned about it in November, eight months after the crimes were reported during a monthly men’s meeting (aka Head of Household meeting) in anticipation of Steven’s return to the church community following his time in Cottonwood Correctional facility.’ (Email at 4).
    • Concerns about “other imponderables,” including:
      • The “removal of Steven’s internet rogue gallery of probable victims (including photos of children in their bedroom) which was part of a family on-line photo collection . . . entitled ‘Steven’s Photos’;”
      • “Steven Sitler’s father, Dave Sitler, helped to start a branch of Christ Church in Colville after Steven’s conviction,” and the “interim pastor in Colville is Ed Iverson, the original broker of the Katie Travis and Steven Sitler[] marriage” (Email at 4).
    • Concerns over “conflict of interest . . . when choosing an appropriate chaperone” for Sitler, and specific concern that Sitler’s wife, Katie, and her mother, Roxanne, are not qualified (Email at 4-5).
    • Concerns over the marriage between Sitler and Katie Travis, which to Huskey resulted from the “sad, indeed tragic, exploitation of a vulnerable, immature young woman to provide Steven a willing wife” (Email at 5). Huskey suspects that Douglas Wilson “thought a wife would distract Steven from pedophiliac inclinations” (ibid.).
    • Concerns that the court file contains “no order/stipulation mandating a plan to address Steven’s place in the home after the child’s birth”: “Have you approached Judge Stegner with a plan that will remove Steven from the home and will provide visits to the infant monitored by someone other than a wife or relative? If not, when do you intend to do so?” (Email at 5).
    • Concerns regarding a separate matter: The “torturous final years of Lee Pohrman’s life, and the complete lack of oversight of Charles Wright [which] demonstrate a grievous supervisory breakdown with catastrophic results” (Email at 5). Huskey identifies this matter as “the reason I am so concerned about the careful monitoring of Steven Sitler” (ibid.). Huskey discusses this matter at length (Email at 5-9, including what appear to be captured Facebook posts or messages). She concludes: “It is stunning to me that no public rebuke has been leveled at your agency for your apparent disinterest and lack of shame at the death of Mr. Pohrman” (Email at 9).

2015-06-25

  • PA Thompson moves for a status hearing to review Sitler’s terms of probation in light of the birth of his child, noting that the current terms forbidden unsupervised contact with children would apply to Sitler’s own child (Request for Status Hearing/Review of Probation Conditions 2015-06-25).
  • The court sets a status hearing for July 22, 2015 (Clerk’s ROA 2015-06-25), which is subsequently rescheduled for July 31, 2015 (Order Vacating and Resetting Hearing 2015-07-22).

2015-07-20

  • Affidavit of Gregory L. Wilson, Ph.D. filed, in which Dr. Wilson states in pertinent part:
    • He is familiar with the various psycho-sexual evaluations of Sitler, including an updated evaluation conducted in June 2015 (Affidavit at 3).
    • “There have been no allegations of ‘hands on’ or contact re-offenses since Steven’s guilty plea of ten years ago” (Affidavit at 3).
    • “After Steven’s son was born in March 2015 Steven was initially told by Probation and Parole that he could have a normalized relationship with his son” (Affidavit at 3).
    • Sitler “has participated in over 100 treatment sessions over this nine years, along with multiple assessment procedures and maintenance sessions. Mr. Sitler has also been accompanied to selective sessions by his parents and, more recently, by his wife” (Affidavit at 3).
    • “Over the last 10 years Mr. Sitler has successfully completed extensive components of treatment at Valley Treatment Services and also a Wilson Psychological Services [during which] . . . Sitler has successfully learned self-management skills [and] . . . modified his cognitive and behavioral patterns . . . and above all he has not reoffended” (Affidavit at 3-4).
    • “Sitler has been married for four years to an age-appropriate woman. I have found Steven’s wife to be impressive on her own merit, particularly as to her honesty and intelligence. Mrs. Katie Sitler is an asset in this situation — more so than many spouses in similar circumstances” (Affidavit at 4).
    • “In my opinion Mr. Sitler is a positive candidate for successfully parenting his son in the family home” (Affidavit at 4; see also 7-8: “Consistent with the information presented by Dr. Wert and Blaine Holman, IDOC, Mr. Sitler continues to represent a positive candidate for successfully parenting his son”). Dr. Wilson supports his opinion with the following:
      • Wilson has “developed and implemented procedures for the successful ‘re­integration,’ when appropriate, of familial [sex] offenders and their in-home victims (Affidavit at 5). This has been based on over 30 years of assessing and treating sexual offenders and victims, including a “substantial amount of experience over the decades with men who have sexually offended minors and then later either reconciled with their wives or gotten married and had children in the home while they were on probation” (Affidavit at 4). “There were several times . . . when I . . . worked with the young victim while Mr. Lindsley worked with the sex offender [and] at the right point . . . we would work through family re-integration — where the sex offender and the mom and the minor victim began living together again” (Affidavit at 4). “In Mr. Sitler’s case [on the other hand], there was no offense within the home; that is, neither his wife nor child are his victims” (Affidavit at 5).
        • What Dr. Wilson has “looked for in such a family re-integration process . . . [is]:
          • That the sex offender has completed his treatment.
          • That the sex offender’s spouse becomes a chaperone and is fully informed of everything she needs to know.
          • That there is complete disclosure of everything — past and present — between the rehabilitating sex offender and his spouse” (Affidavit at 6).
          • In “Sitler’s case there was no offense within the home. . . . Steven has diligently worked in the Sex Offender program . . . for almost ten years; he completed all of his treatment years ago. Steven has a good record over a decade especially when one considers the level of surveillance over Steven. Additionally, Mr. Sitler’s wife has been fully informed of Mr. Sitler’s sexual assault history and she has completed chaperone training with Valley Treatment Specialties. There has been and is complete disclosure of everything between Steven and his spouse” (Affidavit at 6-7).
          • “Dr. Wert concluded that Steven ‘does not currently present as a sexual risk to his son” (Affidavit at 7).
          • “Unlike family re-integration therapy involving familial offenders and victims, the steps involved in ensuring safety within the Sitler home appear straight­ forward to me and have been successfully managed since the child’s birth in late March 2015. Specifically, Mr. Sitler should remain on probation, he should complete requested polygraph examinations, he may meet whatever additional requirements Valley Treatment Specialties has put in place, and he should maintain regular maintenance sessions at Wilson Psychological Services — as he has for a good share of the last nine years. For the short terms Steven will come in to see me about once per month. Separately, Katie will com in to see me also for visits/ consults, sometimes with and sometimes without Steven. This will add to the safety net. . . . [H]aving Steven and his wife and his baby in the home . . . is less difficult than family re-integrations . . . where rehabilitating sex offenders have lived with actual victims in the same residence” (Affidavit at 7).

2015-07-21

  • Letter to Judge Stegner from Valley Treatment Specialties (VTS) filed, in which David Nystrom and Crystal Ren, Senior Certified Sexual Offender Treatment Providers (SCSOTP) and owners of VTS, state in pertinent part:
    • They have “received specialized training and experience with sex offenders for many years . . . [and] have counseled with Mr. Steven Sitler for nearly ten years,” during which time “Sitler has successfully completed extensive components of treatment” (Letter at 1).
    • They are familiar with Steve Lindsley’s 2006 psycho-sexual evaluation report concerning Sitler, as the June 2015 update evaluation of psychologist Paul Wert performed at the request of Probation and Parole, and Blaine Holman’s transmittal report to Judge Stegner (Letter at 1).
    • “Dr. Wert’s report and Dr. Wilson’s affidavit are consistent with our impressions regarding Steven Sitler. In our opinion Mr. Sitler should at present continue to parent his son in his home as he has done for the last four months” (Letter at 1-2). Nystrom and Ren offer the following factors in support of their opinion:
      • Sitler has been married for four years to an age-appropriate woman (Letter at 1).
      • “We understand that Steven was initially told by Probation and Parole that he could have a normalized relationship with his son. VTS itself did not require any additional treatment for Steven after the birth of his son. However, an Order was obtained for Steven to repeat Relapse Training starting in March 2015. VTS was not consulted about whether this repeat Training was necessary” (Letter at 1).
      • “We know of no allegations of contact re-offenses since Steven’s guilty plea of ten years ago” (Letter at 1).
      • “Over the decades we have worked with men who have sexually offended minors and then later either reconciled with their wives or gotten married and, in appropriate cases, had children in the home while they were on probation” (Letter at 1).
      • “Steven has steadily worked in the VTS Sex Offender program for almost ten years. Additionally, Mr. Sitler’s wife has completed chaperone training with Valley Treatment Specialties” (Letter at 2).

2015-07-29

  • Status Report and Recommendations by Valley Treatment Specialties (VTS) filed, in which SCSOTP’s Crystal Ren and David Nystrom stated that they were asked by multiple sources, including PO Blaine Hollman and DC Dean Wullenwaber (Report at 1), to “consider and make recommendations in formulation of a safety plan for Steven’s family and son” (Report at 2). Ren and Nystrom state in pertinent part that:
    • They are “in agreement with Dr. Wilson’s report, as well as Mr. Wert’s psychosexual evaluation outcome and recommendations” (Report at 2).
    • “Steven’s current relapse prevention plan, as well as his ongoing treatment and probation supervision, as well as increased polygraphs provides [sic.] an adequate safety plan for Steven and his family at this time (Report at 2).
    • They recommend that the “original level of supervision outlined in [Sitler’s] chaperone agreement plan should be altered to reflect his current level of risk in the home setting with his son,” but indicate that this does not extend to “line of sight” supervision: “There is no indication that Steven needs to have “line of sight” supervision to parent his son” (Report at 2).
    • They recommend that Sitler “continue in treatment as needed for ongoing support, polygraphs, family therapy as needed, and hold to his relapse prevention plan,” and that “this plan should be reviewed quarterly and updated according to needs and or [sic.] issues that may arise” (Report at 2).
    • They provided the following summary of Sitler’s treatment to date:

      Steven completed a psychosexual evaluation in 2005 with Mr. Steven Lindsley, and began sexual offense specific out-patient treatment soon after. During the course of treatment, Steven was able to complete 6 phases of a structured treatment program, the chaperone training component, and subsequently was able to “graduate” the program successfully. During this time, Steven has also participated in individual counseling with Dr. Greg Wilson, a portion of which has also included dynamics surrounding Steven’s sexual offense. The course of this therapeutic relationship has been almost ten years, and has reflected a significant level of investment on the part of Steven.

      During the course of treatment, Steven has complied with a variety of stipulations that has been [sic.] requested by probation and parole and has included [sic.] additional polygraphs, penile pleysethmagraph [sic. (“plethysmograph”)], as well as supplemental treatment regarding sexual offense issues[] and additional updated psychosexual evaluation and risk assessments. Steven has complied with every stipulation and request simply as gesture [sic.] to comply and subsequently engage his future as a student, husband, and father. Throughout the treatment process, Steven has been able to maintain gainful employment and is currently a student in a doctoral program.

      Steven has been married for approximately four years to a woman who is also one of his chaperones. She is fully aware of the extent of his sexual offense dynamics as well as number of victims. Steven and his wife now have a baby boy of about 4 months of age. VTS understands Steven was initially told by Probation and Parole that he could have a normalized relationship with his son. However, an order was obtained for Steven to repeat Relapse Prevention Training starting in March 2015 (due to failing a polygraph) and

      VTS accepted the referral even though evidence did not substantiate the findings of the polygraph. To this date, Steven continues to invest in the treatment process openly and candidly per probation order.

      At this time, Steven’s original supervision plan was put into place by IDOC as is standard practice with our clients. Part of his supervision included for him to have chaperones, who met the IDOC rules and stipulations. VTS offers chaperone training that is approved by IDOC. Steven’s chaperones went through this training that included general education regarding sexual offending and offense dynamics[,] as well as training regarding specifics about the offender they are chaperoning for. The rules section included in the chaperone packet are those created by the IDOC as standards, also incorporated [sic.] by VTS as appropriate for Steven when he entered supervision with IDOC, and began treatment with VTS (Report at 1).

2015-07-30

  • Defense Memorandum filed by DC Wullenwaber, in which he argues that “in the last six weeks, four (4) sex offender specialists have rendered opinions and recommendations supporting the conclusion that Steven Sitler should continue to parent his baby son at his home as he has already done for the last four months” (Memorandum at 1).

2015-07-31

  • Review of Probation Terms Hearing (Court Minutes 2015-07-31). The following events and actions are reflected in the Minutes:
    • An in-chambers discussion between the court and counsel occurred, following which DC Wullenwaber moved for a continuance, to which PA Thompson had no objection (Minutes at 1).
    • DC Wullenwaber requested that the Psychosexual Evaluation by Paul M. Wert, Ph.D. (attachment to Special Progress Report), along with the Polygraph Report authored by Bill Crawford on July 29, 2015, be sealed, which the court granted, hearing no objection from PA Thompson (Minutes at 1; Order Sealing Documents 2015-08-04 at 2).
    • PA Thompson, “in light of the information just made available to the State today,” requested that Sitler’s terms of probation be modified to require Sitler to “remove himself from the family home and to not have any unsupervised line-of-sight contact with any child, including his own” (Minutes at 1).
    • The court denied the state’s request to remove Sitler from the family home, but granted the request for line-of-sight supervision (Minutes at 1): “The defendant will be supervised by a competent adult, who has been approved as a chaperone, whenever he has any line-of-sight contact with any child, including his own child” (Order Modifying the Defendant’s Terms and Conditions of Probation 2015-08-04).
    • The court granted PA Thompson’s request to send Mr. Crawford’s polygraph report to the psycho-sexual evaluator and to Valley Treatment Specialties and to request a response (Minutes at 2).

2015-08-17

  • Special Progress Report filed by PO Blaine Holman, stating that Sitler took another polygraph on August 13, 2015, and failed another question” (results attached in a sealed envelope).

2015-08-24

2015-08-28

  • DC Wullenwaber files notice of legal authorities holding that the right of a convicted sex offender to familial association is a “particularly significant liberty interest” which can only be abridged on probation when supported by special findings by the court based on specific evidence in the record that the abridgment is “necessary for deterrence, protection of the public, or rehabilitation, and that it involves no greater deprivation of liberty than reasonably necessary” (Authorities 2015-08-28 (attached copy of S. v. Wolf Child, 699 F.3d 1082,1087 (9th Cir. 2012) (holding that Wolf Child, a statutory rape type sexual offender, could not be prohibited as a condition of probation from associating, without his probation officer’s permission, with any minor children, including his two minor daughters)).

2015-09-01

  • Special Progress Report filed by PO Holman with attached email from Dr. Wert, in which Wert states that:
    • He does not know the polygrapher and is “not entirely sure what the latest polygraph means.”
    • He has not talked to Sitler since Wert’s original evaluation.
    • He “would prefer to not comment any further on Steven and leave any further input to his treatment providers.”
  • Hearing regarding Review of Probation Terms (Court Minutes 2015-09-01), in which the following occurred:
    • PA Thompson argues that (1) Sitler should not be allowed to have contact with his child unless it is line-of-sight monitored by a trained and approved chaperone, (2) that Katie Sitler’s current disqualification as a chaperone should remain unless and until she is re-certified after appropriate re-training, and (3) that, putting those two together, Sitler cannot reside in the home when his child is present, at least for the time being (Minutes at 1). In support of these points, PA Thompson stated:

      “The information this court now has before it . . . shows . . . that Mr. Sitler has engaged in contact with his child that has resulted in sexual stimulation on his part. That was disclosed to his wife, but not reported to Valley Treatment Specialties [(the pertinent Idaho Certified Sexual Offender Treatment Provider23)]. It apparently was disclosed to Dr. Wilson [(a Washington psychologist who has seen Sitler, but who is not an Idaho Certified Sexual Offender Treatment Provider)], although we don’t know exactly what Dr. Wilson understood to have been disclosed, because . . . last month. . ., the disclosure we were dealing with . . . was merely a physical contact that resulted in a thought. We now have a disclosure that says there was physical contact that resulted in actual sexual stimulation with his own child. That is a completely different scenario than Wolf Child [(a court case which recognized a sexual assault probationer to have a significant liberty interest in having contact with his non-victim children)], and it is a different scenario than what the court was presented with last month when the court ordered line-of-sight supervision” (Audio Recording at 24:04–25:23).

      “Valley Treatment [Specialties] . . . are [sic] the treating experts in this. They’re the ones certified by the State of Idaho. They’re the ones with the sexual treatment history with Mr. Sitler. They were compromised in their ability to provide that service because the disclosures were never shared with them by Mr. Sitler or his wife, or by anyone else” (25.49–26.16).

      “Everybody would love for Mr. Sitler to become a normal person. The fact of the matter is, Your Honor, he is not. He is a serial child sexual abuser, to the point that Your Honor has imposed a life sentence and required that he be under supervision for the rest of his natural life. He has multiple victims. All of them young. Some so young that they were not in any position to protect themselves. The risk to society is substantial. The risk to his own child, despite the best wishes and hopes of everybody in this courtroom, is substantial. The actions that he has engaged in [and] that he has disclosed to this point are a compelling basis that he cannot have [sic] anything close to a normal parental relationship with his child, certainly at this point in time [sic]” (27:23–28:27).

      “I think the most compelling, pressing issue is ensuring the protection of his child. The best way to handle that is to prohibit Mr. Sitler from having contact with the child except in the direct line-of-sight supervision of a responsible, approved chaperone — approved by the Department of Corrections and Valley Treatment Specialties. At this point in time, that means Mr. Sitler would not be able to reside with his wife and child in their home” (28:55–29:00).

      “What is still troublesome is that Mr. Sitler has yet to successfully complete the polygraph examination, which suggests that there is something out there that has not yet been disclosed. And we don’t know what that might be” (30:13–30:29).

      “Where we are now — with what we know, not from polygraph results, but what we know from Mr. Sitler’s own disclosures, from his own lips — and where we were just a month and a half ago, they don’t even compare” (30:46–31:00).

    • DC Wullenwaber indicated that Sitler does not object to the recommendations of Valley Treatment Specialties for line-of-sight supervision and for further training of Katie Sitler so she can be re-certified as a chaperone, but that he does object to any sort of permanent, significant impingement of his “fundamental liberty interest” in spending time with his son (Minutes at 1; Audio at 22:41–22:57;12:31–13:32):

      “The [federal] 9th Circuit [Wolf Child] case points to a fundamental liberty interest that a father has with his children” (12:31–12:40).

      “It is possible to achieve all of the IDOC’s stated aims without trying to perform surgery with an axe, which they’ve done (13:19–13:32).

    • The court indicated that “Katie Sitler’s status as chaperone could be reinstated with additional training, [and] that the defendant should avail himself of relapse prevention in the meantime and should undergo and pass a polygraph” (Minutes at 1). The court indicated that it would “modify the consolidated terms of probation and allow counsel to review them prior to putting them into effect” (Minutes at 2).

2015-09-08

  • Status Conference (by telephone), during which the following occurred:
    • Both parties expressed lack of objection to the court’s draft consolidated terms of probation (Minutes at 1).
    • PA Thompson stated that he had been informed that Child Protection Services was opening a case and was requesting that the court release the sealed documents to the Dept. of Health and Welfare (Minutes at 1).
    • The judge said he would release the requested material (Minutes at 1) (which the court subsequently did in an Order Authorizing Release of Sealed Records filed Sep 8, 2015).

2015-09-08

  • The court issues its Consolidation of Terms and Conditions of Probation nunc pro tunc (“now for then”) to Sep 1, 2015 (which means the terms and conditions apply retroactively beginning Sep 1). Special conditions of probation of interest include:
    • “The Defendant shall not associate with any person under the age of eighteen (18) years, including his own child, unless another competent adult, who has previously been approved by the Defendant’s probation officer (a chaperone) is present, and who has line-of-sight supervision over the Defendant and any minor child” (Consolidation at 7).
    • “Until otherwise approved by Defendant’s supervising probation officer or further order of the Court, the Defendant shall have an approved chaperone with him whenever he is out of his residence and will comply with a schedule of his activities which must be approved in advance by his supervising probation officer” (Consolidation at 7-8).
    • “The Defendant will, at his own expense, repeat the After Care Program with Valley Treatment Specialties” (Consolidation at 8).
    • “The Defendant will, at his own expense, undergo maintenance polygraphs as directed by his supervising probation officer. . . . If any answer reveals deception it shall be a violation of Defendant’s Terms and Conditions of Probation” (Consolidation at 9).

2015-09-21

  • PO Holman files the new IDOC Agreement of Supervision signed by Sitler (Special Progress Report with Agreement attached).

2015-12-16 – 2016-07-11

  • Ongoing documents filed and status conferences held regarding who is certified to be a chaperone for Sitler when with his child (ROA; Phone Conversation with PA Thompson, July 11, 2016). As of July 11, 2016, Sitler was still required to have line of sight supervision by a certified chaperone any time he is with his child, which means Sitler could not stay in the family home overnight (ibid.). Katie Sitler was seeking to be certified as a chaperone, but that had not been approved as of July 11, 2016 (ibid.).

2016-08-26

  • Order Granting In Part and Denying in Part Defendant’s Motion re Chaperones and Implementing Safety Plan:
    • The court ruled, pursuant to Sitler’s motion, that IDOC Probation and Parole “shall reinstate Katie Sitler as an approved chaperone for the Defendant effective immediately,” and further that IDOC Probation and Parole “must work with Valley Treatment Specialists and Dr. Gregory L. Wilson towards reunification of the Sitler family” (Order at 3, 4). The court denied without prejudice David Sitler’s (the defendant’s father’s) request for reinstatement as chaperone (“without prejudice” means that the request can be remade in the future).
    • The court noted that Sitler had filed “numerous affidavits” from experts in support of the motion, and that the state had not filed any expert evidence to the contrary, so that “there is unanimous agreement among the experts in this case that Katie Sitler should be reinstated as a chaperone and that steps should be taken to reunite Steve Sitler, Katie Sitler, and their son” (Order at 1, 3).
    • The court quoted the declaration of Gregory L. Wilson, Ph.D., in the following respects, among others:
      • “Mr. Sitler had sexually related thoughts about a year ago and self-reported those thoughts. That Mr. Sitler self-reported these thoughts to me is an important consideration in my opinion that reunification is appropriate in this case. Moreover, Ms. Sitler now knows that sexually related thoughts self-reported by Mr. Sitler need to be reported to Valley Treatment Specialties [(i.e., the pertinent Idaho Certified Sex Offender Treatment provider)]” (Order at 3).
      • “Over the past year, Ms. Sitler has demonstrated an increased understanding of her role in protecting her child. Ms. Sitler has clearly stated that her primary goal is the safety and well-being of her child. . . . [S]he has also developed further coping skills and a clear resolve to function as the primary parent of her child throughout his youth. . . . Mr. and Ms. Sitler completed reunification counseling. . . . Decreasing the level of stress for a sexual offender in the context of appropriate safe guards and comprehensive treatment does result in lower rates of recidivism” (Order at 2).
      • “I have extensive experience working with sex offenders and their families to reunify, including offenders who have victimized their own children. . . . At the current time, this case clearly is appropriate for reunification of the family” (Order at 3).

 

 

Appendix B
JAMIN WIGHT CASES ANNOTATED TIMELINE

What is included
This timeline is comprised of events documented in the public portion of the court record. In that regard, it should be noted that law enforcement reports are not typically part of the court file, and further that a number of items that are part of the court file are typically sealed and unavailable to the public, especially in cases involving sexual assault, and most especially in cases involving under-aged victims. Examples of items typically sealed include: (1) the law enforcement investigation referral to the prosecutor; (2) affidavits from experts; (3) the presentence investigation report (PSI); and (4) anything that would reveal the identity of under-aged victims. It should be noted that Natalie Greenfield, who is no longer a minor, has publicly identified herself as Wight’s under-aged sexual abuse victim, and has blogged about various aspects of the case. Accordingly, we will not excise her name whenever it appears in the record.

  • Explanatory notes appear in the timeline occasionally. For example: “NOTE: Preliminary hearing was waived by defendant.”

Abbreviation Guide

DC Defense Counsel
DOC Idaho Department of Corrections
IDHW Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
LCSO Latah County Sheriff’s Office
NICI North Idaho Correctional Institution, also known as Cottonwood, after the nearby town
PA Prosecuting Attorney
PO Probation Officer
PSI Presentence Investigation Report
ROA Court Clerk’s Record of Action (a listing of all the court filings in the case)
SOCB Idaho Sexual Offender Classification Board

Citations
Citations to documents filed with the court consist of the document title, the filing date, and the pertinent page number(s). Example: Order for Early Release from Probation dated May 14, 2009 at 1.

Citations to the court clerk’s Record of Action (known as the “Docket Sheet” in many jurisdictions) consist of the abbreviation “ROA” followed by the pertinent date. Example: ROA, 2006-04-20.

Citations to committee interviews are by the name of the party interviewed followed by the date of the interview. Example: PA Bill Thompson Interview, 2016-03-08.

IDAHO CASE CR-2005-2500

2005-08-17

  • Criminal Complaint filed, sworn to buy Officer Casey R. Green, charging Wight with three counts of sexual abuse of a child in violation of Idaho Code 18-1506 and lewd conduct with a minor under 16 years of age in violation of Idaho Code 18-1508, occurring between February 2001 and June 2002. The counts allege that the victim, NG, was 14 or 15 at the time, and that Wight violated the law by touching her sexually, by oral to genital contact with him, and manual genital contact with her.
  • No Contact Order issued until September 1, 2005; no contact from Wight to Natalie Greenfield. NOTE: Wight’s bond conditions indicated that he was to live with his parents in Potlatch, Idaho, and had permission to stay with his uncle, Jeff Johnson, in St. Mary’s for work purposes.
  • Search Warrant issued on the affidavit of Casey R. Green for a journal marked, “To Jamin from Natalie”, along with a laptop computer, to be retrieved from Jamin Wight’s place of residence in Moscow. NOTE: The search warrant was returned on August 24, indicating that six photocopies of the journal were retrieved from Wight’s residence.

2005-08-22

  • Stipulation to continue preliminary hearing filed by the parties, indicating that they are exchanging discovery and negotiating a possible resolution to the case.
  • Subpoena issued for Natalie Greenfield to appear at preliminary hearing.

2005-08-29

  • Order binding over defendant to district court.
    NOTE: Preliminary hearing was waived by defendant.

2005-09-29

  • Criminal Information filed mirroring previous criminal complaint.

2005-10-28

  • Arraignment: Defendant arraigned on count one, sexual abuse of a child in violation of Idaho Code 18-1506, carrying a maximum permissible punishment of 15 years in prison; and on counts two and three charging lewd conduct with a child under 16 years of age in violation of Idaho Code 18-1508, carrying a maximum permissible punishment of life in prison.

2006-02-03

  • State’s Supplemental Response To Request For Discovery: The Witness List includes Natalie Greenfield, Gary Greenfield, Pat Greenfield, Zachary Greenfield, Mike Hatcher, Peter Leithart, Douglas Wilson, Benjamin Zedek-Smith. The Exhibit list includes a letter-statement of Pat Greenfield dated August 17, 2005; a letter from Douglas Wilson dated August 22, 2005; a letter-statement of Gary Greenfield dated August 17, 2005; a letter from Jamin Wight to Gary and Pat Greenfield; a statement of Ben Smith; a second letter to Garry and Pat Greenfield from Jamin Wight; an email from Natalie Greenfield dated January 5, 2006; a letter to Garry Greenfield from Douglas Wilson dated September 1, 2005; an email from Gary Greenfield to Douglas Wilson dated September 12, 2005; a letter to Garry Greenfield from Douglas Wilson dated September 15, 2005; email correspondence received from Garry Greenfield.

2006-02-08

  • Trial subpoena issued for Peter Leithart.

2006-02-14

  • State’s Motion In Limine and 404 (b) Notice: (1) The state seeks to prohibit Wight from offering evidence or arguing that the victim or her parents consented to any of the charged activity, on grounds that consent is not a defense to the charges. (2) The state seeks to exclude any evidence or argument that the defendant has plans to become a minister or has plans to move on with his personal life by getting married, etc., on grounds that these items of information are irrelevant. (3) Should defendant introduce evidence questioning the timing of victim’s disclosures to authorities, the state seeks to respond by introducing testimony that the victim believed that the defendant was falsely telling third parties that nothing inappropriate had occurred between them. (4) The state seeks an order allowing the testimony of Douglas Wilson and Peter Leithart regarding statements made by the defendant in their presence during a meeting on August 15, 2005, which meeting was also attended by the victim’s parents, Gary and Pat Greenfield. The state argues that this was not a confidential communication, but part of an ongoing dialogue and discussion between the defendant and the victim’s parents, which also included an earlier meeting in December 2005. (NOTE: The fact that the state wants to introduce these statements typically indicates that they contain incriminating admissions by the defendant.) (5) The state gives notice under Rule of Evidence 404(b) of its intent to offer evidence of actions and statements of the defendant evidencing inappropriate or sexually related feelings about or attraction to the victim, as well as physical contact with the victim, which actions and statements do not rise to the level of a criminal offense. (NOTE: Rule 404(b) provides that while “[e]vidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith,” “[i]t may . . . be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident. . .”)

2006-02-14

  • State’s Request for Jury Instructions: Significant parts include: (1) Regarding count one, “sexual contact” means any physical contact between the child and the actor, between children which is caused by the actor, or the actor causing the child to have self contact” (Instruction 4). However, the sexual contact must have been done by the actor with specific intent to gratify the sexual desires of the defendant, the minor child, or a third-party (Instruction 3). (2) Regarding counts two and three, which charge lewd and lascivious conduct, “it is not necessary that the bare skin be touched . . . the touching may be through the clothing” (Instruction 10). (3) Regarding all three counts, “it is not a defense . . . that NG or anyone on her behalf may have expressly or impliedly consented to the alleged conduct” (Instruction 13). It is also “not a defense to the crime . . . that the defendant did not know the age of NG or that the defendant reasonably and in good faith believed that NG was 16” (instruction 14). It is further “no defense that the person did not know that the act was unlawful or that the person believed it to be lawful” (Instruction 15).

2006-03-08

  • Court Minutes — Guilty Plea: PA Thompson informed the court that a Rule 11 plea agreement had been reached between the parties whereby the defendant will plead guilty to count one charging sexual abuse of a child, and that the state would dismiss counts two and three. Defendant entered a guilty plea to count one, and the court ordered a presentence investigation report and set sentencing for May 12, 2006. Without objection from PA Thompson, the court granted defendant1s motion to remove the restriction that defendant spend evenings at his parents’ farm in Potlatch.
  • Rule 11 Plea Agreement: Regarding sentencing: “The state and the defendant agree that the appropriate disposition of this matter is . . . the defendant will receive a withheld judgment and be placed on probation . . . for a period of five years . . . plus . . . the defendant shall serve 30 days in the Latah County Jail with work release authorized . . . [and] shall . . . complete sex offender treatment” (1-2).

2006-05-10

  • Motion to Seal Records: PA Thompson moved on behalf of the victim and her family to seal the probable cause affidavit filed in support of the complaint, as well as the search warrant affidavit, because “those documents contain highly intimate and potentially embarrassing facts or statements” (Motion at 1).

2006-05-11

  • Order to Seal Records: The court granted the state’s motion to seal.

2006-05-12

  • Guilty Plea and Sentencing:
    • NOTE: PA Thompson stated in his interview that the judge, after reviewing the Presentence Report, refused to accept the original plea agreement, believing that the facts did not warrant the charges. Consequently, PA Thompson and the defense attorney entered into a new plea agreement based on a plea of guilty to a new charge which the judge was willing to accept (PA Bill Thompson Interview, 2016-03-08).
    • Amended Criminal Information filed: Charging injury to a child in violation of Idaho Code 18-1501(1), a felony carrying a maximum permissible penalty of five years in prison, alleging that Wight “under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm did willfully cause or permit NG, a female child under 18, to be placed in such a situation that her person or health was endangered by engaging in sexual activities” (Court Minutes 1-2).
    • Amended Rule 11 Plea Agreement filed: Providing that the defendant shall plead guilty to the charge of injury to a child as alleged in the Amended Criminal Information., and that the appropriate disposition is for a judgment of conviction to be entered against the defendant with the court retaining jurisdiction, and that both parties are free to make whatever sentencing recommendations they believe appropriate., with the sentence being left up to the court (Court Minutes 1-2).
    • Sentencing Hearing: The court accepted the defendant’s guilty plea under the Amended Rule 11 Plea Agreement and sentenced the defendant to four years in prison, consisting of a minimum period of confinement of 18 months, followed by an indeterminate period not to exceed 2 ½ years, with the court retaining jurisdiction for a period of six months and recommending that the defendant be placed at Cottonwood for evaluation. The court also ordered the defendant to pay up to $3000 for counseling for the victim over the next four years (Court Minutes 2; see also Judgment of Conviction dated May 17, 2006). Prior to imposing sentence, the judge described a prior case involving a homeschooled boy with very little social interaction who was “eighteen going on thirteen emotionally,” and who got involved with a girl who was “thirteen going on twenty:

      That’s not child sexual abuse; that’s teenage sex. The other side of the spectrum is a forty year old man who penetrates a seven year old girl. That’s evil, that’s really evil. This [case] is a lot closer to the first than to the second. It’s a situation that is unfortunate. I think looking at it that it’s ultimately perhaps predictable. I hope the parents on either side won’t blame themselves. The fact that mistakes were made doesn’t mean we’re bad people; it means we are human. Mistakes were made here. I don’t want to detract from the seriousness of it. But this wasn’t a predator looking for a young girl . . . This isn’t someone who was seeking out or grooming something. These were two young people — and it’s hard for me to remember at my age, but hormones rage at these ages. And sometimes they end up in very sad circumstances. The conduct was really inappropriate . . . but it was natural. It wasn’t at the other end of the spectrum where it starts to be unnatural. I think there was genuine fondness between Natalie and Jamin. I think there’s a real sense of betrayal on behalf of Natalie, and that’s understandable . . . It’s extremely inappropriate conduct, but in my judgment, to some extent — if I were involved with either family, and I looked at the mix, I would not be surprised that it happened under the circumstances. Doesn’t excuse it; it does explain it, I think.” (Transcribed from audio recording of sentencing hearing.)

2006-06-28

  • Memorandum Decision and Order: The court denied the motion of Wayne Fox to review the entire contents of the court file, including the sealed files, and specifically the victim’s journal regarding her relationship with Wight, the Presentence Report, the affidavits of Officer Casey Green, and letters of recommendation by, among others, “Pete Reithart” (Leithart) and Toby Sumpter. With the exception of the letters of recommendation, the court denied the motion on the grounds that the requested files “contain information that is very personal and intimate and sexual in nature, the disclosure of which would seriously embarrass and expose to ridicule and humiliate the victim” (3). The court also noted that the law enforcement reports rely on assurances of confidentiality to get much of the information that they contain (3). The court refused to release the letters of recommendation because they were “integral parts of the Presentence Reports” (7). Had they been written directly to the judge, they might have been eligible for release (7).

2006-10-13

  • Court Minutes — Review of Retained Jurisdiction: The deputy prosecutor stated that he had no objection to the recommendations in the report, and the judge stated that he intended to follow the recommendation of the report. The court placed defendant on probation for a period of four years, requiring defendant to comply with all regulations of the Department of Corrections, to not ingest any alcohol, to attend mental health counseling designated by his probation officer, and to submit to blood, breath or urine analysis, as well as polygraph examinations, if requested to do so. The court renewed the No Contact Order (1-2; see also Order Suspending Execution of Sentence and Order of Probation dated October 18, 2006).

2006-12-7

  • Order modifying probation condition number 6: The court permitted defendant to consume “limited small quantities of wine for the sole purpose of partaking in communion at his church, and may also consume a single glass . . . of wine at the celebration of his wedding . . . in February 2007” (1).

2008-12-24

  • Defendant’s Motion for Termination of Probation, Discharge of Defendant, and Reduction of Charge to a Misdemeanor: The motion alleges that defendant has met the requirements of Idaho Code 19-2604 (2), which allows a court to suspend the sentence and reduce a felony conviction to a misdemeanor for a defendant who has been placed on a suspended sentence and who has successfully completed an authorized mental health program. The motion alleges that defendant has completed his six-month rider at Cottonwood, that since being placed on probation, he has been supervised by five different probation officers, has completed all courses and counseling requirements of those officers, and has not had any probation violations. The motion further alleges that defendant is now married to [redacted] has a six-month-old daughter, and is operating a successful business as a contractor. The motion also alleges that there is a large family reunion scheduled for July 2009 in Switzerland which defendant would like to attend with his family.
  • The state opposed defendant’s motion on January 7, 2009: The state and the probation officer are amenable to defendant’s travel request, but oppose the other items of requested relief. The state notes that the “victim has recommenced counseling resulting from the defendant’s actions”, and that “it is contemplated that the victim will complete her counseling prior to the costs exhausting the defendant’s $3000 deposit” (2). The state also notes that defendant is still in sex offender therapy, as a continuation of his ongoing treatment program, and has at least 6 to 12 months left before completion (2).
  • The state filed a victim statement on March 4, 2009, which included an email from Natalie Greenfield dated February 28, 2009, in which she stated in pertinent part: “When I told my parents and the police about the crimes Jamin committed against me, my motive was not revenge. Truthfully, I wanted others to know about what he had done and as a result, to be able to protect themselves and their children from him. When a lesser sentence was given, I felt fiercely wronged . . . I am affected daily by the sexual abuse I suffered as a young woman; from my marriage and other interpersonal relationships, to the workplace. I feel that Jamin’s request to end his probation early is synonymous with asking you to let this no longer affect him. I’m sure he’s probably weary of the restrictions and boundaries that come with being on probation, just as I am weary of struggling daily with my emotional, mental and physical well-being after the abuse. It simply doesn’t seem right that he would be granted early release from probation.”

2009-04-29

  • Hearing regarding defendant’s motion to terminate probation (see Court Minutes; Transcript of Hearing). Jamin Wight testified, and his direct and cross-examination focused on his conditions of probation and what programs and restrictions he had complied with, etc. The state called no witnesses, and presented the case on the documents already filed with the court. Contained within the defense counsel’s argument are the following statements: “[W]e had a mediation in this particular matter. . . and the family wasn’t willing to go for the result that you told us you wanted to see or else we’re going to go to trial . . . and after (being] confronted with that, they decided not to go to trial with the matter and accepted the resolution. Mr. Thompson went to them… before we made the plea and had the sentencing” (Transcript 26). “Jamin . . . gave $3000 to the court trust fund for treatment … and there’s been some of it used. There’s been quite a sporadic history there . . . but none of it was used for some time and there were some spurts where it was used. . . It comes down to a situation where her feelings were always of paramount importance and they were part of what he had to go through . . . in terms of his treatment and understanding and . . . appreciating as part of the rehabilitation he had to go through” (Transcript 26-27). PA Thompson did not dispute that defendant had complied with his probation, and further noted that the state had no objection to him traveling to the family reunion, but otherwise believed that defendant had already received much leniency, and that the court should not grant the rest of defendant’s motion (Transcript 30-32). The judge stated in pertinent part: “I am . . . very sympathetic with the victim . . . and I think that Mr. Wight is sympathetic with the victim and . . . the people I’m not sympathetic with are the parents that allowed this to happen in the first place. And I’m not going to rehash this . . . [b]ut I do think . . . what happened was foreseeable . . . It doesn’t excuse it; not for a minute. But . . . this isn’t, and it never was in my judgment, an L and L [i.e. lewd and lascivious] case. It was a young-people-having-sex case. It was totally inappropriate, the number of years between Mr. Wight and the victim . . . was obvious. . . . And there isn’t any question that it’s harmed him emotionally . . . And it has emotionally had an impact on the victim. . . . What can be done, I think, is or has been done in both of those regards. . . The probation department . . . sees no more reason to supervise Mr. Wight . . . Mr. Wight has been a model probationer . . . And given that the probation officer sees nothing more to be done and Mr. Lindsley [(the sex abuse counselor)] sees nothing more to be done . . . I don’t see any more reason to continue probation. So I’m going to terminate probation . . . effective 13 June and at that time reduce the offense to a misdemeanor, which by my calculation is about six or eight months early” (Transcript 32-34).
  • The court subsequently entered an order terminating defendant’s probation effective June 30, 2009 (see Order for Early Release from Probation dated May 14, 2009).
  • The court reduced defendant’s conviction to a misdemeanor in an order dated May 14, 2009 (see Order Amending Judgment of Conviction).

Restitution disbursements to NG

  • The file contains a record of disbursement in the amount of $30 on December 8, 2006.
  • The file contains a record of disbursement in the mount of $190 on November 12, 2013, with accompanying record of two 1 hour individual therapy sessions on September 24 and October 3, 2013.

 

IDAHO CASES CR-2013-665 & CR-2013-1315

2013-03-04

  • Criminal Complaint filed in case 665 charging one count of attempted strangulation in violation of Idaho Code 18-923, a felony, alleging that on or about February 20, 2013, Jamin Wight choked or attempted to strangle [redacted] by placing his hand on around her neck and applying pressure.

2013-06-27

  • Criminal Information filed by PA William Thompson mirroring the earlier criminal complaint.

2014-01-13 thru 16

  • Four-day jury trial: Hung jury; mistrial declared (see Court Minutes for each day of trial).

2013-05-02

  • Criminal Complaint filed in case 1371alleging perjury, specifically that on or about April 29, 2009, the defendant testified falsely under oath in a hearing, by saying that he had at all times complied with the terms of his probation, which testimony he then known to be false. The supporting affidavit reveals that the specific falsehood concerned defendant’s probation requirement that he not partake of alcohol except for communion at church. The affidavit contained a quote from Peter Royce: “I remember that during his probation . . . I had alcoholic drinks with Jamin on a number of occasions . . . I know there were a number of times when we served Jamin alcohol at our house when we knew he shouldn’t have it. I now wish we hadn’t done that” (Affidavit at 3-4). The affidavit also contained a quote from the statement of Matthew Breese: “I heard through various friends that Jamin was on probation, but it was approximately six to eight months before he told me himself that he was on probation. During this time we invited the Wight’s over for dinner. In every case that I can remember I provided Jamin with alcohol . . . All of these alcohols [sic] I drank with him during his time on probation” (Affidavit at 4). Melissa Breese was quoted as stating: “There were many times during these get together [sic] that we saw Jamin drink alcohol at meals, and with his/ our friends” (Affidavit at 5).

2013-06-27

  • Criminal Information filed charging perjury and mirroring the criminal complaint.

2013-06-26

  • Preliminary Hearing: Matthew Breese testified that he met defendant in 2007, and that he heard at that time through other people, although not directly from Wight, that Wight was on probation. The Wights had a standing invitation to come over on Sunday afternoons, and a good majority of the time they consumed alcohol together (18-19). Between meeting Wight in 2007, and up to April 29, 2009, “I’d say 90% of the time that he came over to our house, which was . . . sometimes on a weekly basis, sometimes multiple times a week; . . . just about every time . . . we had a drink. There was rarely a time when we didn’t” (Transcript 22-23).

2014-07-03

  • Change of Plea in cases 665 and 1371: Pursuant to a Rule 11 plea agreement, Wight entered a plea of guilty to perjury, a felony, in case number 1371 and to a reduced charge of domestic battery, a misdemeanor, in case number 665 (Court Minutes; Rule 11 Plea Agreement). In the plea agreement, the parties agreed that the appropriate disposition of case 655 should be 30 days in the local jail, with the sentence running concurrently with any jail sentence in case number 1371. The parties also agreed that the appropriate disposition in case number 1371 should be a suspended sentence, with defendant being placed on probation for 2–4 years, while requiring defendant serve 30 days in jail, as well as 40 hours of community service, while also requiring defendant to obtain a domestic violence evaluation, and to neither possess nor consume alcohol (Plea Agreement 1-3).

2014-10-29

  • Sentencing: In case 665, domestic battery, the court sentenced defendant to 30 days in jail. In case 1371, perjury, the court sentence defendant to the custody of the department of corrections for not less than two nor more than four years, suspended the sentence, and placed defendant on probation for a period of four years (Court Minutes 1-2). The court also sentence defendant to 60 days in jail, with 30 days suspended, and the remainder running concurrently with the jail time from case number 665 (Court Minutes 3; Judgment of Conviction and Order Suspending Sentence dated November 6, 2014). The court also ordered defendant to pay restitution to Bryony in the amount of $495 (Order of Restitution dated November 7, 2014).

 


1 See http://ministrysafe.com.
2 https://natalierose-livewithpassion.blogspot.com/2015/11/on-october-3rd-2015-following.html; https://natalierose-livewithpassion.blogspot.com/2015/11/my-response-to-crec-internal-inquiry.html; https://natalierose-livewithpassion.blogspot.com/2015/12/my-response-to-crec-internal-inquiry.html
3 Townsend, C., & Rheingold, A.A., (2013) (one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday). Other data suggests that with girls, the percentage is as high as one in four, and with boys, one in six.
4 Finkelhor, D. (2012) (nearly 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser); Crimes against Children Research Center, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (2007) (children are most often sexually abused by someone they know and trust).
5 Quoted in Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists, and other Sex Offenders, by clinical psychologist and child sex abuse expert Anna Salter (2004).
6 This is language used in Christ Church’s directive regarding Sitler’s reintegration into church life.
7 This was reported on the CREC elders’ email list and in the Christ Church Head of Household meeting, Oct. 27, 2015.
8 The video is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5grTscx7oI.
9 Lawyer’s apology appears in the comments section of the youtube video, cited op cit.
10 Both Moscow churches were involved together in this stage of the Wight case, so this paragraph addresses both.
11 The letter is published on Greenfield’s blog at http://natalierose-livewithpassion.blogspot.com/2015/09/yes-were-still­-talking-about-this.html.
12 (Emphasis added.) The letter is published on Greenfield’s blog at http://natalierose- livewithpassion.blogspot.com/2015/09/when-doug-wrote-to-my-father.html.
13 See, e.g., John 8:3–11, where Jesus stands up to a lynch mob, then provides both comfort and correction to the would-be victim.
14 “Reason to believe” is the triggering standard for Idaho’s mandatory reporting law, which provides: “Any . . . person having reason to believe that a child under the age of eighteen (18) years has been abused [(which includes sexual abuse)] . . . shall report or cause to be reported within twenty-four (24) hours such conditions or circumstances to the proper law enforcement agency” (Idaho Code 16-1605 (1)). The Idaho statute contains a limited clergy exception when certain confessional conditions are met (Idaho Code 16-1605 (3)). Many states now have mandatory reporting laws. Ministers, officers, and church staff should consult the applicable laws of their state.
15 Interview of Ed Iverson, 2015-11-03.
16 Wilson’s letter is quoted in part here: https://dougwils.com/s7-engaging-thc-culture/an-open-letter-from-christ-church-on-steven-sitler.html.
17 See https://www.hopeingod.org/sermon/fooled-false-leadership.
18 Cf. Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 83.
19 Meyer, loc. cit.
20 See e.g., I Kings 18:27; Eze 23:20; Jer 2:20, 23–24; Mat 23:13–33.
21 See Douthat’s book, Bad Religion.
22 Bradley Campbell, California State University, and Jason Manning, West Virginia University, “Micro-aggressions and Moral Cultures,” Comparative Sociology, vol. 13 (2014) 692–726, at 696, 711.
23 See https://somb.idaho.gov/pdf/Treatment_Prov_Roster.pdf.