ORANGE - by Lauren Huet
A jury left the Orange County Courthouse Tuesday, before deciding the sentence of a youth pastor who has pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual assault of a child.
Joshua McDaniel first admitted to having a sexual relationship with one of his students last November, shortly after, he admitted to having a sexual relationship with two students. The sexual relationship with one student began when she was fifteen-years-old. The relationship with the other student began when she was sixteen-years-old.
The second day of the punishment phase began Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., and started with testimony from the pastor of Commonground Church in Bridge City.
He said families have left Commonground Church since McDonald confessed to the sexual relationships, and the youth students are "unsettled." Pastor Bud Davis said McDonald's actions are "beyond belief," and McDonald held "a position of trust." Pastor Davis testified that he believes McDonald would have continued the sexual relationships and not confessed if he hadn't been forced to confess by an ultimatum from one of the victims.
The prosecutor argued the only reason McDonald confessed was because one of the victims threatened to go to the police if McDonald didn't confess to his wife and the pastor.
The defense then called Dr. Robert King to the stand. Dr. King is a licensed professional counselor and a sex addiction treatment provider. He knew McDonald when he was a child, because McDonald's family attended the church Dr. King pastored.
Dr. King testified that McDonald has been seeing him for treatment for the past three months. During twelve sessions, Dr. King says he's determined that McDonald is "treatable, and he can be helped and rehabilitated."
He testified that McDonald was sexually abused as a child, and as a result, doesn't have boundaries. Dr. King told the defense attorney it would be best if McDonald gets probation so he can continue treatment. He also said, McDonald's family needs him to provide for them, and if he is on probation he can continue working and pay for the victims' counseling.
The prosecutor argued against that, saying McDonald can receive treatment in prison while being punished for his crimes, and the state of Texas will pay for the victims' treatment.
Next, the defense called a former student of McDonald's to the stand. She said she was raped by a stranger as a child, and had post traumatic stress disorder. Had McDonald not recognized her symptoms, and pushed her and her family to get help, she says she wouldn't be alive. She also said she never saw anything inappropriate from McDonald.
The next witness was Mandy McDonald, McDonald's wife. Mrs. McDonald said they have six children, and they have had a good marriage.
"I had no idea anything was going on until day he confessed," said Mrs. McDonald.
She says hearing his confession was "terrible." Mrs. McDonald said one of the victims came over almost every day, because she was needy and wanted a family.
"I wanted her to see what a family looked like," said Mrs. McDonald.
However, Mrs. McDonald said the victim didn't have boundaries, and was angry when Mrs. McDonald told her she could only come over during youth meetings.
"Never in a million years would I have thought they were having a relationship," said Mrs. McDonald.
However, she's standing by her husband.
"I made a commitment to him 17 years ago and to God," said Mrs. McDonald. "While what he did was wrong, you can do bad things and not be a bad person."
When asked who was to blame, she said her husband was at fault, but also said 15 and 16 year olds are old enough to know what they're doing, and know right from wrong.
Mrs. McDonald asked the jury to give her husband probation so he can continue to provide for her and their children.
The prosecutor argued probation isn't punishment.
Mrs. McDonald replied, "there's punishment in probation."
Joshua McDonald then took the stand. He admitted to having sex with the two victims. He said his relationship with one of the victims became intimate after he accidentally brushed her chest. McDonald says, he apologized, but the victim told him she hoped he enjoyed it as much as she had. One and a half months later, he admitted, they were having a sex.
"It is the most horrific thing I could have done to her," said McDonald. "It went from me giving her attention to her giving me attention. I was wrong in my response to her."
"I was placed in a position to protect the victims, to grow them, to guide them, to better them," said McDonald. "I want to continue getting treatment and providing for my family."
He asked the jury for mercy, even though he said he doesn't deserve it. Mercy, he said, would be sentencing him to probation instead of imprisonment.
McDonald faces up to 20 years in prison for sexual assault of a child. He is charged with three counts of sexual assault of one victim, and three counts of sexual assault of the second victim.
During closing arguments, his defense attorney pleaded with the jury for mercy.
"He did wrong. He's sorry for his wrong and we plead with you to have mercy, compassion, and emotion."
The prosecutor asked for justice.
"There are two places that every child is entitled to feel safe. In their own home and church," said the prosecutor.
The jury will return to the courthouse at 9 a.m. Wednesday.