Back to guilty: Judge vacates the vacation of Harvest Bible youth minister's conviction
Just three months ago, Kane County Judge Michael Noland found former Harvest Bible Chapel youth minister Paxton Singer of Sugar Grove guilty of disorderly conduct.
That was on Nov. 13. Then, nine days later, Noland surprised everyone when he responded to a routine request by Singer's attorneys to vacate the conviction by doing just that and agreeing to order a new trial.
On Tuesday, the case took another twist when Noland vacated the vacation. The end result is that Singer is back to being deemed guilty of disturbing and alarming the parents of one of his teenage congregants with the text messages he and the 15-year-old boy exchanged.
"His ruling was absolutely absurd," Singer's attorney, Terry Ekl, said after Tuesday's hearing. "It cannot be sustained on appeal."
Ekl had argued in a motion to dismiss the case that Noland ordered a new trial not because of an error during the proceedings, but because the judge believed the evidence fell short of convicting Singer beyond a reasonable doubt.
"The court's remedy, allowing the state to try it one more time after amending the complaint, speaks volumes. The court, based on the transcript, is giving the state another chance to 'right the ship' because at the end of the proofs during the first trial, their attempt to convict the defendant was dead in the water," Ekl's motion read.
Ekl thus concluded Noland "implicitly felt that the evidence was insufficient."
Noland denied Ekl's motion to dismiss the case, and affirmed his previous decision to find Singer guilty.
Prosecutors urged Noland to move forward with the second trial, arguing in their motion that it would not violate Singer's protection against double jeopardy.
"The defendant's convictions were not reversed on appeal for insufficiency of the evidence nor was he intentionally provoked into requesting a mistrial by conduct of the state or the court. The defendant was granted a new trial (by) his request," read part of a motion filed by Assistant State's Attorney Lori Schmidt.
"The court was very clear in his findings that the granting of the motion for a new trial was not based on insufficiency of the evidence, therefore the law of double jeopardy does not apply in his case as a bar to further prosecution."
Asking for a new trial is a routine procedural step needed for appealing a decision to a state appellate court.
Singer was charged in October 2018 with two misdemeanors: disorderly conduct and sexual exploitation of a child. Noland found him not guilty of the sexual exploitation charge.
The disorderly conduct alleges that the parents of the victim became alarmed when they saw text messages about masturbation, and when they learned Singer had asked the boy to stay overnight at Singer's residence.
Singer is due to be sentenced April 16. He could receive up to 30 days in jail.