Mason City pastor found not guilty of assault on teen

| April 7, 2012

MASON CITY, Iowa — A jury Friday night found a Mason City pastor not guilty of assault for striking a teen who used profanity during a confirmation class in church.

Richard Tompkins, defense attorney for the Rev. Paul Nelson of St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mason City, said the jury reached its verdict early Friday evening after originally intending to deliberate on the case Monday.

“I just always appreciate juries doing their duty whatever the verdict is,” said Tompkins, who declined further comment. Nelson declined to comment on the verdict Friday evening.

Nelson was accused of hitting a 15-year-old Mason City boy as punishment for his use of an expletive during a confirmation class at the church on Sept. 28, 2011.

Nelson, 61, was tried on one count of assault, a simple misdemeanor, in Cerro Gordo County Magistrate Court.

The prosecution and the defense rested their cases Friday afternoon. Judicial magistrate Rolf Aronsen read the jury instructions to the panel finishing at about 5 p.m. Friday.

He then made the decision to send the jury home for the weekend instead of having them begin deliberations immediately, however, the jury decided to stay.

In testimony Friday afternoon, Nelson said he hit the boy three times in the upper arm with his open hand to “get his attention” after the boy used an expletive.

Nelson said he also wanted to “protect the church from such abuse.”

When the boy used the expletive again, Nelson said he hit him three more times.

“It was extremely repulsive. I never ever remember hearing anyone use that word,” Nelson said.

He also said such language was never used in his childhood home.

“I was just flabbergasted. I never heard anybody use that word anywhere let alone in church.”

The confirmation student testified earlier Friday that the incident started when he wouldn’t stop using his cell phone in class.

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