Judge's verdict expected Nov. 5 in ex-pastor's exploitation trial
A Kane County judge will decide Nov. 5 whether a former youth minister from Harvest Bible Chapel is guilty of child sexual exploitation.
Judge Michael Noland set the date Tuesday after hearing closing arguments in the trial of Paxton D. Singer, 25, of Sugar Grove.
Singer's attorneys did not call any witnesses.
Singer is charged with one count of child sexual exploitation for texts sent to a 15-year-old boy who was a member of the church's youth group.
The charges accuse him of knowingly enticing a youth younger than 17 to remove clothing for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the youth or Singer. The three text conversations specifically mentioned allege that Singer asked for a photo of the boy in his underwear; of the underwear itself; and for the boy to stay overnight at his residence.
There were other texts in which Singer asked the boy about the style of underwear he was wearing, among approximately 2,000 texts Singer and the youth exchanged after they met in summer 2016 on a bus to Harvest's camp in Michigan. Singer was the youth's cabin counselor.
He is also charged with disorderly conduct, alleging he disturbed the peace of the boy's parents when they saw some of the texts.
Kane County Child Advocacy Center Director Deb Bree argued that Singer "knowingly enticed" the youth by asking about the underwear amid other sex-oriented texts. "It's not taking place in a vacuum," she said.
She said in one text Singer asked the boy to show him the underwear via FaceTime. Although none of the texts asked the youth to remove his clothing, Bree argued common sense indicates that, given the time of the text for the photo (midafternoon), the place (the youth's living room) and that his mother was home, the youth likely was fully dressed - so to show underwear, he would have had to undress.
As for sexual arousal or gratification, Bree said Singer had asked about the tightness of the underpants and the boy described them as being like compression shorts. Tight underpants would show the outline of the youth's genitalia, she said.
"Why would a grown man be asking a 15-year-old boy for a photo of him in his underwear if not for the purpose of sexual gratification?" Bree said.
Defense attorney Terry Ekl argued that Singer could not have known what clothing the youth was wearing at the time.
Ekl, citing a department store website he viewed over the weekend, argued that a photograph of a man in his underpants wouldn't necessarily show an outline of genitals. He said prosecutors had "convoluted" a "simple case" by asking the judge to infer from circumstantial evidence that Singer, by asking for the photo and the type of underpants, was enticing the youth to disrobe, for sexual purposes.
"Last time I checked, doing something strange (asking about underwear) was not a crime," Ekl said.
He also argued against the disorderly conduct charge, questioning why the parents didn't call police right away if they were truly alarmed.