No bond revocation for ex-Harvest Bible youth minister accused of exploitation
Prosecutors on Thursday unsuccessfully tried to persuade a judge to jail Paxton Singer, the former Harvest Bible Chapel youth minister on trial on charges of sexual exploitation of a child and disorderly conduct.
They filed a petition to revoke his bond shortly before Singer's trial resumed in Kane County, saying the Sugar Grove man had sent a text message to a 16-year-old "uncharged victim" who may testify he received similar sexually oriented texts as the victim in the case.
Prosecutors said the mother of the witness called a Child Advocacy Center investigator late Friday afternoon to say her son had received a text from Singer.
"This is a victim that won't come to court now because he is being intimidated," Assistant State's Attorney Lori Schmidt argued.
"Then prove it," countered one of Singer's attorneys, Terry Ekl, who repeatedly asked that the state provide the text message to prove there really was one and from what phone number it came. Ekl said Singer "vehemently denies" texting the witness.
Schmidt acknowledged prosecutors don't have the text message.
Judge Michael Noland denied prosecutors' request because of insufficient evidence. But he said he is willing to reconsider the matter if the state's attorney's office can provide the message.
Singer, 25, has been free on bail since his arrest last fall. One of the requirements was that he not have contact with anyone younger than 17.
He is charged with sending text messages to a teenage congregant from February to December 2017 to persuade the boy to remove his clothing.
One of the texts asked the boy to send a photograph of himself in his underwear; another asked for a photograph of the boy's underwear. There also were texts asking the boy to sleep at Singer's residence.
Two former pastors from Harvest Bible Chapel testified about a meeting between them, Singer and another pastor. They said they asked Singer about texts he had sent to another teenager in 2017, then told him he was fired.
That boy was 17 at the time. Singer had requested a photo of the teen shirtless to show an and abdominal muscles, according to prosecutors.
The defense previously argued that Singer had been coaching the teen on exercise and was merely checking on his progress. Singer also asked the teen sexually oriented questions in the texts.
"It was obviously inappropriate subject matter to be talking about with a teenager," said pastor Landon MacDonald, who was in charge of youth ministry at the time. MacDonald now works at a church in Phoenix, Arizona, having resigned after his father, the founding pastor of Harvest, was fired in February.
The bench trial will resume at 1 p.m. Tuesday.