Christian college defends actions amid rumors
College took appropriate action in regard to child molester, leaders say
Accusations that New Saint Andrews College kept knowledge of a sex offender and his activities under wraps has put college officials on the defensive. Officials claim accusations that the college tried to cover up student Steven Sitler’s activities and delayed in reporting the matter to law enforcement and the public aren’t valid. Doug Wilson, pastor of Christ Church and a college board member since 1994, called the rumors “crazy”.
NSA didn’t make a public announcement because officials were trying to protect the victims, he said. “When you have a situation like this, the court system has a policy of keeping victims’ names out of public knowledge to protect the names and reputations of victims,” Wilson said. He said that is why he did not inform the public when a parishioner brought to his attention that Sitler, 21, had sexually abused their child. He advised the victim and the family to report the matter to the police immediately, and they did so, Wilson said. “I would have announced the situation, if it was just Steven and no victims,” he said.
The college immediately expelled Sitler upon his confession, Wilson said, and students were told that he had been expelled because of “criminal activity”. The Christ Church congregation was made aware of the situation, he said.
Sitler was convicted of one felony count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under the age of 16 in July and sentenced in September, said Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson. He was taken to the North Idaho Correctional Institution under the retained jurisdiction program before being moved to the Latah County Jail. He receives treatment twice a week in Clarkston and Pullman. Sitler was sentenced to life in prison. How that sentence is served is subject to review every year. Second District Court Judge John Stegner ordered another year in the Latah County Jail in April, and will review the case again in one year’s time. Thompson said if Sitler is released into the community it will be under intensive probation supervision for the rest of his life.
“The combined sentence is appropriate,” Thompson said. “It ensures public safety and at the same time places him into an intensive sex offender program.” Thompson and Sitler’s attorney, Dean Wullenwaber of Lewiston, reached a plea agreement in September because of Sitler’s willingness to admit to other sex abuse crimes he had committed — both in Moscow and in Stevens County, Wash. “This was his first criminal conviction at all, but he disclosed he had offended on more than one occasion,” Thompson said.
Wilson, in a letter to Stegner dated August 19, said he hoped Sitler’s penalties would be “measured and limited”. “It’s not the same as light, but it’s not an ‘Oh, my God’ response,” Wilson said. “Steven did not realize the magnitude of what he was doing. Now I believe he does.”
Wilson and New Saint Andrews College President Roy Atwood said they feel they are being targeted. “This whole thing is coming from the same group of people interested in zoning code violations, tax issues and issues related to perjury,” Wilson said. “My interest is in keeping victims and their families protected.” “They are exploiting people’s tragedy for a political purpose. That’s beneath anybody’s reasonable treatment of other people,” Atwood said. “Society is becoming more tolerant of sexual sins and perversions,” Atwood said. “Homosexuality and other forms of sexual perversion are becoming mainstream.” Wilson said he dealt with the issue “in a textbook way”.
The congregations of Christ Church and Trinity Reformed Church, a ministry of Christ Church, make up about 1,000 people, the size of a small town, he said. “In a small town, there are people who do awful things,” he said. “People are trying to turn this into a scandal.” Wilson said this was a scandal to the families involved, but the manner in which the school dealt with it is not part of that scandal.
Omie Drawhorn can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 234, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.