Crime

Most jurors take their work seriously. In priest’s rape mistrial, ‘this (one) did not.’

Victor Jagerstatter
Victor Jagerstatter

An unusually uncooperative juror forced a mistrial in the case of a Catholic priest accused of raping an intoxicated, unconscious Mountain Home airman last July. And, prosecutors say, it’s not clear whether that airman will be willing to go through another trial.

“He was pretty broken up,” Deputy Elmore County Prosecutor Jessica Kuehn told the Statesman on Thursday. “We’re not 100 percent sure of his decision yet. We’re giving him a little bit of time to think about it.”

The mistrial occurred earlier this month, and the Rev. Victor Jagerstatter, 40, is scheduled for a second trial next March. The administrator at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Mountain Home, Jagerstatter was charged with rape last July on allegations that he sexually assaulted the airman, who rented a room from him.

The airman told police that he went home intoxicated after a party last July, fell asleep fully clothed and then awoke partially undressed, with Jagerstatter kneeling next to him. According to court documents, the airman told police that he did not give permission for any sexual contact.

Jagerstatter’s trial had been set for July 19 but was moved up two weeks to ensure that the airman was present. “The victim in this case is an active-duty military member and was scheduled for a six-month deployment to a war zone,” Kuehn said.

That has also affected how soon prosecutors can try again.

Prosecutors remain committed to pursuing the case if their key witness is willing, Kuehn said.

What happened with the juror, she said, “was very strange, kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Mistrials are commonly declared when factions of a jury deadlock on a verdict. This one apparently happened because one juror “refused to, in any way, participate in the deliberations,” Kuehn said.

The jury foreman reported that refusal to 4th District Judge Jonathan Medema at the end of the first afternoon’s discussions, she said, and when the judge told the juror to participate the next morning, “he still refused.” Kuehn said she made a motion to remove the juror, but the judge ultimately declared a mistrial.

Except for that lone juror, it appeared from communications with the judge that the panel was reaching a consensus, Kuehn said. It is not known which verdict they were moving toward, she said.

“Most of the time we have great jurors,” Kuehn said. “They take their job very seriously, but this juror did not.”

Jagerstatter remains free without bond. If convicted of rape, he could face up to life in prison.

Ordained as a priest in 2006, he served the Catholic parishes of Mountain Home, Glenns Ferry, Bruneau and Grand View. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise placed him on administrative leave and pledged cooperation with investigators after the rape allegation surfaced last year.

The Rev. Victor Jagerstatter faces a rape charge, but parishioners are coming to this defense

Kristin Rodine: 208-377-6447

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