Judge to decide by mid-August whether teens can testify in exploitation case

A Kane County judge said he will decide in the next 10 days whether to allow two "uncharged victims" to testify at the child exploitation trial of former youth minister Paxton D. Singer of Sugar Grove.

Circuit Judge Michael Noland indicated Friday that he is leaning toward letting the two people - neither of whom is pursuing criminal charges - to take the stand, "but I'm not fixed in this position," he said. He will review the attorneys' written replies and examples of case law they provided before he decides.

Singer, 24, is charged with misdemeanor sexual exploitation of a child and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

He is charged with asking a teen, via text messages, about the boy's sexual habits, as well as to send pictures of him shirtless and to spend the weekend with Stinger.

Singer was a youth minister for Harvest Bible Chapel at the church from May 2017 until he was fired in January 2018, according to the church. The messaging occurred during 2017, authorities say.

Assistant State's Attorney Lori Schmidt argued Friday that the two teens should be allowed to testify that Singer sent them sexually oriented text messages. One was 16 and the other 17 at the time the messages were sent, according to Schmidt.

Singer sent the 16-year-old texts and Snapchat messages asking the boy to send pictures of himself in his underwear, according to Schmidt's motion. Singer asked the 17-year-old to send him pictures of himself shirtless, showing his "abs" and tan, and also asked sexually oriented questions, prosecutors allege.

Schmidt said Friday that their testimony would show Singer's intent. Sending the messages to the case's victim was not a mistake and Singer did not have an "innocent state of mind" when he sent them, she said.

"We believe the defendant is going to say (at trial) he was counseling the victim about purity and that this was all a misunderstanding when he was texting to see the victim in his underwear," Schmidt told the judge.

Singer's attorney, Kevin Halverson, argued that the teens should be barred from testifying for several reasons: First, the 17-year-old was not considered a child under the sexual exploitation law, so asking for pictures or sending sexually oriented texts wasn't a crime, Halverson said. Second, Singer had been providing physical training to that teen and asked about his abdominal muscles to see what progress the teen was making, Halversan said. Asking to see someone's abdominal muscles isn't akin to asking to see somebody's underwear, Halverson argued.

He also argued against letting the 16-year-old testify, saying it would be hearsay because the prosecutor hasn't provided the defense with any copies of the text or Snapchat messages about which the teen would testify.

And the prejudicial effect of their testimony would outweigh the evidentiary value, he said.

"He is to be tried for what is in this case, not for something else," Halvorsen said.

Schmidt countered that because Singer opted for a bench trial, prejudice would be less likely to occur than if the case were being held by a jury.

Singer's next court appearance is set for is 1:30 p.m. Aug. 16. The trial is scheduled to start Sept. 4.

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