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Judge dismisses sex abuse charges against pastor

Brian Shields

St. Charles

Arvis Goodman said when her husband was first charged with multiple counts of child sexual abuse that she would stake her most valuable possession on the allegations being false.

"He's not a child sex offender. I'd give up my life on that. You can't make me believe that he's that kind of man," she said in March 1999, after Aurora minister Paul Goodman was charged with 10 felonies alleging that he inappropriately touched his step-granddaughters.

Though Arvis Goodman did not have to go that far to show she believed her husband, she would have won the bet if she had.

Sixteenth Circuit Judge Donald Hudson made a directed finding in favor of Goodman Wednesday, effectively dismissing the charges against him that a Kane County grand jury handed up after a lengthy investigation and recantations from ll three alleged victims in the case.

Hudson ruled that though case law says that defendants can be convicted on recanted testimony if it is found to be credible, he felt that the testimony of the girls in court was more convincing than the statements they made to investigators from the Aurora Police Department and the Department of Children and Family Services.

"When you know you're right, when you know you didn't do anything wrong, you don't worry about it," Goodman said after the verdict. "I thank God that I had a wise man judging me, that he looked at everything involved, instead of one side."

All three girls- ages 18, 17 and 14- testified at various times that the trio concocted the story about Goodman abusing them because they wanted to move out of the minister's house in the 1000 block of Fifth Street and escape his strict rules.

The 17-year-old said she came up with the idea and talked to her sisters about it, but they did not expect Goodman to be charged with sexual abuse. Aurora police and DCFS investigators talked to all three girls on Dec. 1, 1999, and reinterviewed the trio on Jan.27, 2000.

Goodman, 55, maintained that the accusations against him were simply a misunderstanding.

Kane County prosecutors Jody Gleason and Catherine Bellario, however, said that Goodman sexually abused the girls, then somehow influenced them to recant their accusation.

Prosecutors put on their five days of testimony over three months because of Hudson's tight court schedule. The last wit ness was the girls' aunt, Gloria Clark, who testified that one of the girls told her that Goodman touched her inappropriately and that she feared going to her grandparents' house unless her mother was present.

As prosecutors finished their case, defense attorney David Camic asked the judge for the directed finding. Camic argued that once the girls recanted, Goodman should not have been on trial, much less indicted.

Bellario countered that just because the girls recanted doesn't mean their statements to police were no good.

"So, because the defendant said he did not do it, then we should have just dropped this?" Bellario said.

One of the biggest impressions on Hudson were the tapes of Goodman's interrogation by investigators on Dec. 11, 1999. Bellario played the tape in court, and Goodman, who voluntarily went to the Aurora police station for questioning, insisted throughout that he did not do anything wrong

"The defendant sat for a 1-1/2 -hour interrogation by two trained investigators, and he never once wavered, " Hudson said. "He never even evaded one question. Frankly, I was impressed with how he handled the situation."

John Martin, the gang-intervention specialist at Aurora's God's Gym and an Illilnois Department of Corrections chaplain, said the city' religious community believed in Goodman's innocence from the start.

"I'm just glad the brother was acquitted," Martin said. "I had a meeting with the family soon after this came out, and I remember the remorse the girls had from the beginning. We never stopped believing in Paul Goodman."

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