Top court throws out Anne Arundel pastor's conviction of molesting boy

He can be retried without the written apology to his accuser

January 28, 2011|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

A divided state Court of Appeals erased the molestation conviction of a minister this week, ruling that an Anne Arundel County police detective wrongly lured Enoch Jermaine Hill into writing an apology to the boy who accused him.

In a 4-3 ruling, the majority said that Detective Patrick McLaughlin went too far when he told the pastor that the family wanted an apology and, in the same breath, said they were not interested in a trial.

From that, Hill could reasonably believe that making a statement that included an apology to the child who accused him would result in no charges "or at the least, lessen the likelihood of a successful criminal prosecution," Judge Mary Ellen Barbera wrote for the majority.

But the detective made no improper promises or threats to persuade Hill to apologize, and he never promised Hill that an apology was a way to escape prosecution, the dissenting judges wrote. In addition, they wrote, Hill had incriminated himself during earlier questioning.

"I am very sorry for everything that happened between us," the apology began.

"It's nice to see that trickery doesn't win out all the time," said Steven Sindler, the lawyer who defended Hill. "We want to get the bad guys, but we want to do it fairly."

He said Hill maintained his innocence in his 2007 trial.

Hill, 33, was an associate minister at the House of God in Essex. He was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor and two related charges after the boy said Hill molested him in 2004 and 2005 at his home in Odenton when the boy was 10 years old.

Hill was sentenced to serve five years in prison, followed by five years' probation. He is out of prison and living in Laurel, according to the state's sex offender registry.

A spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office said that it is too soon for a decision on whether to retry the case now that the written apology has been ruled inadmissible.

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