The Michigan Supreme Court will listen to oral arguments today about whether to order a new trial for a pastor who was convicted of groping a woman in Roseville during a form of exorcism.
An attorney representing the pastor, Gennaro J. Piscopo, 55, will argue in Lansing that the jury in his 2002 trial should have learned that the victim claimed she was sexually abused by her pastor father throughout her youth and had been raped by a demon living in her attic.
Judge Mary Chrzanowski of Macomb County Circuit excluded the details from the trial for several reasons, noting the woman was protected by the Rape Shield Law and the claims were made prior to the sexual contact.
Piscopo was sentenced to five years probation and required to register as a sex offender for 25 years in January 2003 after he was convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, a high misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of two years in jail.
Piscopo was originally accused by three women of having sexual contact with them, but he was acquitted of three counts of second-degree CSC with the jury convicting him of one lesser count.
The middle-aged women said he fondled them or acted sexually at special “deliverance” prayer services — a form of exorcism — at Evangel Christian Church. Two of the accusations were from a November 2001 service that was part of a 2-day seminar on healing and deliverance from evil spirits. A third allegation, for which he was found not guilty, arose from a deliverance prayer session for Piscopo in 1995.
Piscopo, who headed a network of Evangel churches with his wife, Sherill, maintained his innocence throughout the trial and at his sentencing.
The victim in the case for which he was convicted made the claims about her pastor father and the demon rape in a questionnaire she completed for the ritual.
Chrzanowski added in her ruling that the woman’s written statements were not exceptions to the shield law, that the information was not trustworthy and the woman had never intended for the information to become public.
The state Court of Appeals supported Chrzanowski’s decision, saying the “defendant failed to demonstrate that the evidence (contained in the questionnaire) was necessary to protect his right to confront the witness,” the appeals ruling says.
Piscopo also argued through his attorney that he should have been allowed to present an expert on the effects of extreme stress. Chrzanowski said the expert should not be allowed to testify because he or she did not have special expertise about the ritual involved in the case.
The seven high court justices will hear arguments today for several cases.
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