Eugene priest found guilty of sex with teen prostitute
A jury on Thursday deliberated less than 90 minutes before finding a Eugene priest guilty of paying for sex with an underage prostitute.
Daniel MacKay, 42, will return to Lane County Circuit Court next Thursday for sentencing. He faces a potential jail sentence. His lawyer, Terri Wood, declined comment after Judge Karrie McIntyre read the verdict.
The victim in the case was in the courtroom when the verdict was read, as were nearly 20 of MacKay’s friends and relatives. One of the priest’s friends, Patrick White, said he was “really shocked” by the jury’s decision after having listened to testimony in the case.
Jurors listened to nearly two hours’ worth of closing arguments from Wood and prosecutor JoAnn Miller before beginning deliberations shortly after 3 p.m.
Miller also declined comment after the verdict was returned.
MacKay testified in his own defense Wednesday and denied the allegations. He said that he met with the teenager and gave her money on several occasions because she appeared homeless and needy, and that he sometimes provides similar help to others in his neighborhood.
MacKay serves as priest at St. John’s the Wonderworker Orthodox Church in the Whiteaker neighborhood. At the time of his arrest, he also taught English classes at both Lane Community College and Northwest Christian University. He testified that he wanted to help the teenager enroll at LCC.
MacKay was suspended from church duties after his arrest last October, pending the criminal case as well as a separate probe conducted by church officials.
Miller told jurors in a closing argument that evidence of MacKay’s guilt was clear. She accused the priest of skillfully concocting a cover story to hide his crimes, and said MacKay “is not being persecuted for religious charity. He’s being prosecuted for having multiple sexual contacts … with an underage prostitute.”
The victim, who recently turned 18, testified three separate times during MacKay’s trial.
On Thursday morning, she disputed large portions of MacKay’s story, including his assertion that he originally met her when she asked him for cash outside a convenience store.
The teenager had posted online prostitution advertisements before she met MacKay, and authorities say the priest used language while sending text messages to her that is consistent with terms used in conversations between a prostitute and a customer.
Wood argued that the teenager’s story is not credible, and that MacKay used “no secret code words” in text message exchanges with either the victim or the undercover police officer who arrested MacKay after exchanging texts with him while posing as the teen.
The victim testified Tuesday that she was high on drugs when she testified before a grand jury that indicted MacKay last October, and that she hadn’t told the grand jury the full extent of the alleged sexual encounters with MacKay.
Miller on Thursday emphasized to the jury that although the teenager’s story evolved over time, the teenager consistently testified that she and MacKay had sexual contact.
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