|Priest Found Not Guilty of Assault
By Anne Jungen
October 27, 2010
A La Crosse County jury Tuesday acquitted a visiting Catholic priest of sexually assaulting a female parishioner in August 2009. The panel of 11 men and one woman deliberated four hours before finding the Rev. Edmund Donkor-Baine, 48, not guilty of misdemeanor fourth-degree sexual assault.
The priest’s supporters celebrated outside the courtroom with handshakes and praises to God.
“The system worked,” defense attorney Cheryl Gill said. “I feel a good man was accused unfairly, and it has totally changed his life. The accusations have gone worldwide.”
The 48-year-old woman, a devout Catholic and stay-at-home mother, testified Tuesday she called Donkor-Baine on Aug. 20, 2009, seeking support for her failing marriage and his advice on how to handle sexual urges.
The pair talked at a downtown coffee shop and drove through Riverside Park before parking her vehicle near the Diocese of La Crosse center, she said.
“He grabbed my hand and put it on his penis and then he took his hands and grabbed my breasts,” she told the jury.
She reported the incident to police in December after a diocese investigation found no supporting evidence.
Donkor-Baine, a Ghana resident in the U.S. for medical care, testified he offered to meet the woman at Sunday Mass but she insisted on seeing him that night.
She didn’t appear upset when she arrived at the diocese center, so Donkor-Baine handed her a prayer book and rosary and turned away, he said.
The priest testified she called him to her car and offered to take him to a property she owns in La Crescent, Minn. They settled on the coffee shop, where they discussed her marriage, though she never mentioned her sexual urges, he testified.
They were seated in her parked car when, Donkor-Baine said, she made sexual advances toward him.
“She told me that, ‘I have not met my desires,’” he testified.
He suggested a drive through Riverside Park to calm her, he said, adding she twice rubbed his thigh as they returned to the diocese center.
“I was not comfortable with that,” he said.
Under questioning by Gill, the woman admitted she went back to Donkor-Baine for that counseling session even though she thought he’d been sexually inappropriate at an earlier meeting. She also attended church where he helped deliver Mass the Sunday after the incident.
Gill said the behavior was more typical of a “woman rejected by her husband who sought attention elsewhere.”
But La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke, in his closing statement, argued she had no motive to lie.
“Why would she have a reason to make up something against a church she adored?”
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