Kasson LDS church leader accused of sexual assault found guilty on all counts
The jury deliberated less than four hours Friday before reaching its verdict.
MANTORVILLE — The Church of Latter-Day Saints leader accused of sexually assaulting a juvenile under his care was found guilty on all counts Friday, May 13, 2022, by a Dodge County District Court jury.
Michael Davis, 37, was found guilty of felony first-degree criminal sexual conduct, two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and one charge of indecent exposure in the presence of a minor with a previous conviction. The jury deliberated for less than four hours Friday after attorneys finished their closing statements earlier that same day.
Both Davis' defense counsel Thomas Braun, of Rochester,, and Omlsted County Attorney Geoffrey Hjerleid declined to comment.
Presiding Judge Jodi Williamson ordered Davis to be taken into custody following the verdict. Due to his past sexual assault convictions in Utah, Davis is likely facing a prison sentence under Minnesota sentencing guidelines.
Over the course of the trial, jurors heard testimony from the victim, his family members, multiple law enforcement personnel, and social and medical workers who interacted with the victim.
Davis was the elders quorum president at LDS church in Kasson where the victim and his mother attended. Davis has since been removed from any position in the congregation, according to Randal Thomas, president of the Rochester Minnesota Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Davis was accused of sexually assaulting a then-13-year-old boy under his care multiple times over Christmas break in December 2018 in Davis’ home.
"I am so happy that justice was served. I hope that this victim and all of Mr. Davis' previous victims can find peace in knowing that he will finally be held accountable for his actions," said Michael Benjamin, a witness in the trial.
Benjamin, a current Rochester LDS member, testified during the trial about the hierarchy in the church and the general role Davis would have played while an elders quorum president.
"I also hope that the LDS Church can change their policies and practices to prevent cases like this from happening again," he added.
In a statement about Davis' conviction, Randal Thomas, president of the LDS Rochester Stake, wrote "We are grateful the legal process has moved forward and that justice has been served. We will continue to support and love the victim and family as they continue their healing process."
The victim's mother testified during the trial that she though the LDS church was trying to cover up the abuse.
Many of Davis' charges were dependent on Davis' being in a position of authority over the victim.
The investigation into Davis began following a 2018 traffic stop in Kasson where Davis was stopped with the victim in his car. While law enforcement did start an investigation at that time, the case was closed due to no sexual assault being disclosed.
The case was reopened following an April 2019 report by the victim's mother alleging sexual abuse by Davis.
Throughout the trial, Braun questioned the credibility of multiple state witnesses, including the victim, and was highly critical of the law enforcement and social services questioning of the victim.
“Are we looking for the truth or are we just looking for a charge,” Braun said during his closing statement. “The inconsistencies in the testimony of (the victim) are glaring.”
Hjerleid told the jury that Braun was attacking the arguer as opposed to the substance.
Over the course of the trial, jurors heard testimony regarding Davis’ relationship with the juvenile, including the pair spending enough time together to concern LDS church members, gifts Davis’ had given the 13-year-old boy, and continued contact between Davis and the family resulting in the victim’s mother filing a harassment restraining order against him.
Williamson ordered a psycho-sexual evaluation of Davis to be completed within 12 weeks. No future court date has been set.