Judge won't change former Harvest pastor's guilty verdict

A Kane County judge said he will not change the guilty verdict against a former Harvest Bible Chapel youth minister convicted of disorderly conduct for texting suggestive messages to a teen he was supposed to mentor.

Judge Michael Noland announced the decision this week supporting his February ruling to not order a new trial for Paxton D. Singer, 25, of the 400 block of Courtney Circle, Sugar Grove.

Singer was found guilty Nov. 12 of disorderly conduct but acquitted of solicitation of a minor after a bench trial before Noland. Singer was charged in October 2018 and found 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.

However, Noland ordered a new trial on only the disorderly conduct charge in late November after Singer's defense attorney Terry Ekl argued a motion for a new trial - a procedural step needed for an appeal to an appellate panel that usually results in an order for a new trial only if there was trial error, such as improper testimony or improper evidence being allowed.

A legal tug of war ensued, with Ekl arguing a second trial would violate his client's constitutional protection against double jeopardy because the judge believed the evidence fell short of convicting Singer beyond a reasonable doubt.

In February, Noland undid his previous decision ordering a new trial on the disorderly conduct charge.

Noland reaffirmed that decision in a nine-page ruling this week.

"In the present matter there was no clear, unequivocal declaration of not guilty, or acquittal. Those words, again, never spoken by the court, did not find themselves as part of any court order related to the charge of disorderly conduct by the defendant. The defendant was found guilty on November 12th, 2019 and the court's belief of his guilt was restated in the order of February 11th, 2020," he wrote.

Ekl said he would appeal the case after Singer's sentencing May 22. Singer faces a punishment ranging from probation to up to 30 days in jail and a $2,500 fine.

"Judge Noland's ruling makes absolutely no sense and following the sentencing, we will appeal," Ekl said. "In my opinion, the case will be reversed outright, based on the facts of the case and the absurd history of how it was handled."

Singer is free on bond.

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