Text Messages Lead to Sexual Assault Charges Against Youth Pastor

In the age of smart-phones and near-constant communication, a new form of evidence is appearing in more and more criminal cases: text message and other electronic communication records.

A 25-year-old Dallas youth pastor is facing sexual assault charges after a church member discovered a chat conversation between the member's teenage daughter and the pastor. This conversation occurred through text messages and the father found a full record of the chat on his daughter's phone.

This is an example of how easy it is for defendants to create a dangerous record of evidence. Prosecutors will likely be able to introduce the conversations between this defendant and the church member's daughter to support the charge that something more occurred.

While this evidence is appearing more frequently in courtrooms in Texas and around the nation, text message records are not exactly a new issue for criminal defense attorneys. Before smart-phones and the on-screen "chat conversation" display format, many Americans might not have been aware of how easy it was for prosecutors to reassemble a full picture of a text conversation. Phone users received texts individually and felt more secure in the ability to delete these messages.

Nevertheless, each message created a trail and prosecutors could retrieve this data from phone companies. So although Americans are creating more evidence with smart-phones and other devices, text message data has always been a big pitfall for defendants. No matter what evidence exists against a defendant, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help develop an effective strategy.

Source: Dallas Morning News, "University Park church youth leader arrested on charges of sexual assault of a child," Melissa Repko, Jan. 22, 2013

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