State and defense rest their case in LDS church sex abuse trial
(ABC 6 News) – The prosecution and the defense have rested their cases Thursday in the trial of 37-year-old Michael Adam Davis, a leader at the Church of Latter Day Saints in Kasson accused of sexually abusing a minor.
Davis volunteered as Elders Quorum President at the church, which is where he first met the alleged victim in 2018.
The alleged victim’s mother’s testimony said her son and Davis formed a relationship at the church that led to the alleged victim going over to Davis’s home on the weekends and sometimes overnight. The pair would play computer games and play with Davis’s six or seven pet rabbits, according to the alleged victim. During, what the family described, as winter break, the alleged victim said Davis forced him into three separate sexual acts.
"I was scared out of my life," the alleged victim said in a video recording of his law enforcement interview shown in court.
Thursday, Olmsted County Assistant Attorney Geoffrey Hjerleid walked through the investigation with Captain Jeff Brumfield of the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office on the witness stand. Hjerleid showed the jury some of Davis’s search history. Davis admitted on the website, Quora, to being attracted to people significantly younger than him in July of 2018.
Hjerleid is prosecuting this case in Dodge County, even though he works in Olmsted County, due to staffing shortages in Dodge.
Davis’s defense attorney, Thomas Braun, asked Brumfield about why he did not conduct a formal interview with the alleged victim’s father or aunt, when they may have been aware of the reported abuse. Braun also criticized Brumfield’s decision to not interview Shennin Hudoba, a Mayo Clinic doctor that the alleged victim disclosed the abuse to.
The prosecution also called Michael Benjamin, a member of the church, to the stand. Benjamin has been a part of the Church of Latter Day Saints in Southeast Minnesota for 39 years, and testified he had been Elders Quorum President of a Southeast Minn. branch himself for a period of time.
He spoke about the hierarchy of power within the church, specifically the role of Elders Quorum President, saying that was the position Davis held in the Kasson branch at the time the reported abuse took place.
Benjamin also said that position entailed mentoring young men.
"There is a lot of respect and prestige for the Elders Quorum President title," Benjamin testified, going on to say that if the Elders Quorum President suggested one-on-one time with a young man, "There would be no questions asked."
The defense pointed out that Benjamin was never a member of the Kasson branch of the church and suggested that he had a personal agenda in this case. Benjamin has a lawsuit filed against the Church of Latter Day Saints Rochester Stake President, Randall Thomas.
Davis’s attorney focused on what he called inconsistencies with what the alleged victim told law enforcement, and what the alleged victim said in court.
MN PraireCare social worker Brittany Meyer also testified. She conducted the interview with the alleged victim, where he disclosed the details of his abuse for law enforcement to investigate. The jury watched video footage of the interview, that occurred approximately three months after the accused abuse took place.
"Who is Michael Davis?" Meyer asked in the video.
"He is the man who raped me," the then thirteen-year-old alleged victim responded.
Davis is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, and one count of indecent exposure in front of a minor.
The trial will continue Friday with closing arguments, then the judge will hand the case over to the jury for deliberations.