Former Cloverdale youth pastor Samuel Emerson has been found not guilty of a majority of allegations of sexual assault that came to light two years ago, after young members of his and his wife’s congregation approached police.
The verdict was rendered Wednesday afternoon in Provincial Court in Surrey.
In finding Samuel Emerson guilty of one count of sexual assault, Judge Mark Jetté concluded that the complainant’s apparent consent to have sex with him was induced.
RCMP announced charges against the couple in October 2017. The following March, both accused entered pleas of not guilty. A trial, set for 12 days, got underway this past April in Surrey Provincial Court. It concluded Sept. 4.
Samuel was tried on five counts of sexual assault, two counts of touching a young person for a sexual purpose and one count of sexual interference of a person under 16.
Madelaine Emerson, Samuel’s wife, was tried on two counts of sexual assault, one count of touching a young person for a sexual purpose and one count of threatening to kill someone. She was found not-guilty on all charges.
Madelaine was alleged to have been party to some assaults and to have facilitated others, including driving victims to the pharmacy to purchase Plan B and birth control.
The assaults are alleged to have happened between 2013 and 2017, at the Emerson family home and at the Cowichan River Bible Camp.
In finding the Emersons not guilty of the other charges, Jetté said reasonable doubt was raised by inconsistencies in some of the six complainants’ evidence; in finding Samuel Emerson guilty of the one count, the judge cited the former pastor’s “calculated effort” to distance himself from the complainant while testifying, including the accused’s insistence that he was never alone with her.
Any information that could reveal the identity of alleged victims or witnesses is protected by a publication ban.
More than a dozen former church members attended the proceedings.
Following the verdict, one told Peace Arch News she and others had hoped for more guilty verdicts.
“I’m grateful and glad that this girl’s experience has been acknowledged and validated,” said Carmen Block.
“I think, as a community, there’s a great amount of hurt and distrust. A judge’s decision can only offer some support, but there’s a sense of vindication.”