A Twin Cities priest was acquitted Monday on charges of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly starting an affair with a married female parishioner he was counseling at his Maplewood parish.
The Ramsey County jury found Rev. Mark Huberty, 44, not guilty on two counts of sexual misconduct – one for engaging in a sexual relationship with someone he was counseling, and the other for groping her without consent, the Associated Press reports.
Huberty said in a statement that he is relieved by the not guilty verdict.
“I never understood why the prosecution pursued this so aggressively. A lot of unnecessary harm was caused for a lot of people, including the people of my parish and the complainant herself," he said. "Now it’s time to heal.”
According to the criminal complaint, Huberty and the woman met in 2008 when he was pastor at the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Maplewood. She had come to him for counseling, and in early 2013 their relationship developed into a sexual one, according to prosecutors.
The Star Tribune reports the fact that it was consensual is not a defense for the criminal charge.
Huberty's attorney Paul Engh said in a statement Monday that Huberty should not have been charged with a crime.
“This was a misunderstanding between two adults,” Engh said, according to the Star Tribune.
Huberty resigned from his position at the parish late last year, and said Monday he is looking forward to returning to active ministry as a priest.
He is still on leave, however, until a review board for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis completes its evaluation of the case, according to the Star Tribune. The archdiocese's code of conduct forbids sexual contact by priests.