The attorney general of Michigan has filed two counts against a former pastor and church elder for misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct involving a minor. Charges were filed against the Rev. John H. McDonald and the Rev. Richard J. Dietz from a church in Macomb County.
The complaint, which was filed in July, alleged that the two church leaders knew that the alleged sexual contact between the two of them was improper and created a likelihood of criminal sexual conduct involving a minor. The complaint further stated that the acts were committed by the two men in an environment that is filled with current and former church members who knew about the inappropriate conduct. On the second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a minor, a person is facing a possible sentence of up to two years in jail. If convicted on the first-degree charge, the offender could be sentenced up to life in prison. If convicted on the second-degree charge, the offender could face up to a sentence of not less than two years but not more than fifteen years in prison.
In response to the charges against the two church leaders, the leaders of the church issued a public statement saying they are innocent and did not commit any wrongdoing. In August, more charges against the two men were added. A grand jury had been reconvened and new charges against McDonald and Dietz were filed. The new charges against the two men included: first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a minor; second-degree criminal sexual conduct; involuntary sexual abuse of a minor; accessory to child pornography; endangering a child; furnishing alcohol to a person under the age of 21; enticing a child to come on a scheduled drug crime assignment; and possession of drugs. All of these charges are considered felonies.
A hearing to determine if the case will go to trial or be presented as a presentable case to a grand jury is currently underway in the county court. Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Koplicki told the congregation of the church that the two men are innocent and have nothing to do with the sexual abuse charges. Dietz and McDonald are due back in court in October for a pretrial hearing. If found guilty, they both could face up to thirty years in prison.
Dietz faces the most severe penalty, however. If he is convicted he will serve time in jail and be registered as a sex offender. McDonald has more leeway in what kind of sentence he receives, but still could spend the maximum amount of time in prison. The church is still holding services in the two cities in the wake of the situation. The case has been turned over to the Montana State Police for investigation.
There are other church leaders who have been charged as well. Gerald Ensley, pastor of the church in Farmington Hills, was arrested and released on a $100 cash bond. James Ensley, pastor of the church in Mt. Airy, is also in jail on charges of interfering with police and lying to the court. Jimmie Edwards, pastor of the church in Wheaton, is also in jail on unrelated charges.
Many people have criticized the actions of the church leadership. Some church members have said that they believe the defendants are innocent and that charges are trumped up in order to tarnish the reputation of the church. Others say that the two were involved in an ongoing sexual relationship and that the charges are an attempt to use the church to expel a longtime spiritual leader. Whatever the reason, this latest episode is yet another example of why church leaders must remain vigilant when it comes to their sexual relationships with members of the opposite sex. Sexual abuse can and does take place within the church and those who witness it or even experience it happenings can suffer a great deal.
Those charged in the case have every right to a defense attorney. Ensley and Young have until their court date before they enter a plea, but if found guilty they face long-term consequences. If convicted, they could lose their church leadership positions they currently hold, be forced to resign, be stripped of their church membership and be made to register as a sex offender. Because these men are being charged with crimes against children, the victims of these crimes and their parents are asking the court to keep these men behind bars so that they can go to a counseling program designed to help victims of child molestation.