Defense Seeks to Repress Confession by Pastor in Child Sex Abuse Case

My thanks to the Courier Press for this story.

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GEFF, Ill. — A judge has taken under advisement a defense motion to suppress the alleged confession of a former Southern Illinois minister, in which he gave details of how he sexually abused an Illinois boy.

Lawrence J. Reinke, 57, faces two felony charges of criminal sexual assault and a felony charge of child pornography. The former pastor of the United Methodist Church in Geff, Reinke is accused of having unlawful sexual contact with an 11-year-old boy who attended his church.

Reinke’s attorney argued during a 21/2-hour suppression hearing last week that his client invoked his right to remain silent during questioning by an Illinois State Police detective and an agent with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau, and that the alleged confession should not be allowed during his upcoming trial.

The interview in question took place on April 17, 2007, at Reinke’s church office in the small Fulton County village of Astoria, Ill. Reinke had been transferred to Astoria after details of the alleged sexual abuse in Wayne County surfaced.

Armed with an arrest warrant, state and federal agents drove to Astoria in the early morning hours of April 17 and staked out the small town’s post office.

Using a federally authorized wire tap, agents knew Reinke was expecting delivery of a digital memory card that the alleged victim in the case had made for Reinke. The memory card, police testified, contained child pornography.

At 9 a.m., State Police detective Rick White testified, Reinke walked out of his church office across the street from the post office, circling the building once before entering to pick up the package. U.S. postal inspectors were inside the post office, with Wayne County Sheriff Jim Hinkle and state and federal agents positioned outside. Reinke was arrested without incident.

Agreeing to speak with agents after the arrest, Reinke suggested they all go back to his church office.

“I was trying to be really, really polite,” testified White. “Then he stopped me and said, ‘Forget all that mister nice guy routine. You lied to me last time, and you got me run out of Wayne County.'”

White testified Reinke was referring to an interview he and federal agents conducted in June 2005 after FBI agents executed a warrant to examine his church and home computers for pornographic images.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jeremy Pierezynski testified that at least one of Reinke’s computers contained images of naked prepubescent boys, but none depicting them engaged in sex acts. While the 2005 search did not result in an arrest, word of the investigation leaked out to church elders, resulting in Reinke being transferred.

During the lengthy suppression hearing, Reinke’s lawyer, John O’Gara Jr., argued his client’s statement about “Forget all that mister nice guy routine” amounted to a request to stop the interview.

Wayne County State’s Attorney Kevin Kakac argued the statement was merely a transitional point in the interrogation, which continued for more than two hours, and resulted in several alleged admissions by Reinke.

White testified that during the interview, Reinke admitted he gave the young victim gifts after the two engaged in sexual contact.

“Larry told me he never gave the boy a gift as an enticement to have sex,” White stated. “He always gave them after they were together.” The gifts, White said, often were Xbox games and other video toys.

During the interview, White testified, Reinke admitted the relationship with the boy had grown to be inappropriate, and he regretted it ever started. Reinke also told police the sexual conduct took place in his church office, his car, the gymnasium at the church and in his home. White said.

Circuit Judge Paul Lamar declined to rule from the bench on the suppression motion and took the matter under advisement. Reinke’s case is set for another pretrial hearing on July 30, with trial set for Aug. 18 in Wayne County Circuit Court at Fairfield, Ill.

Reinke had served as pastor of the Geff United Methodist Church for about six years before being reassigned in June of 2005 to Astoria, where he lives today.

Since the former minister’s indictment, the Methodist Church bishop has terminated Reinke’s appointment as a pastor and ordered an internal investigation of the allegations.

Reinke remains free after posting $50,000 cash bond.

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