NH court rejects new trial in church rape case

August 21, 2013, 4:31 am

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire's highest court has rejected a new trial for a man convicted of raping a 15-year-old member of his church.

Ernest Willis was convicted in May 2011 of raping the girl in 1997. His lawyer argued that statements he made to the pastor of the fundamentalist Baptist church should not have been used against him.

But prosecutors countered that Willis' statements were not protected by religious privilege because they involved the sexual abuse of a child.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision Wednesday morning.

Willis is serving 15 to 30 years in prison.

His trial gained national attention because the pastor — Charles Phelps — made the pregnant girl apologize to the congregation. Phelps reported the sexual assaults to police.

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