A Jackson County jury began deliberations late Wednesday afternoon on the question of whether the Rev. Stan Archie sexually exploited a church staffer by using his position as a pastoral counselor.
Archie, a former Kansas City police chaplain and pastor of Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, resigned as president of the Missouri State Board of Education in January 2013 after two women filed lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct.
Jurors got the case after an afternoon of closing arguments that were alternately emotional and dispassionately legal.
Noting that three other women had testified at trial that Archie had sexually abused them during church counseling sessions, lawyer Rebecca Randles asked jurors to find both Archie and the church liable of civil fraud for representing that he was a “safe and competent” counselor.
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“He got off on using his power and using his authority as a counselor,” Randles said.
She asked jurors to award $1.5 million to her client, identified in court records only as Jane Doe LK. Should jurors rule in Doe’s favor, they could begin considering punitive damages against Archie and the church at a second trial that could begin as early as Thursday.
Defense lawyer Michael E. McCausland denied that Archie ever had an inappropriate relationship with Doe.
But even if they had, jurors could not return a verdict in Doe’s favor because the suit was fashioned as a fraud case and not a sexual harassment or employment claim.
McCausland also urged jurors to scrutinize the evidence to find holes in Doe’s testimony. He noted that Doe had alleged that she and Archie were having sexual contact in the pastor’s office in 2007, two years after the church had installed a window on the door.
“Is it believable that this activity was going on in 2007, with the window?” McCausland asked. “No. It can’t possibly be true.”
Closing in rebuttal, Pedro Irigonegaray urged jurors to hold Archie and his church accountable for exploiting Doe.
“Counselors hold great power over the people they counsel,” Irigonegaray said. “This defendant also used the power of fear and, most powerful, the power of God.”
The jury retired Wednesday night and will resume deliberations Thursday.