Former Spencer pastor's case may be nearing conclusion

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Former Spencer pastor Kevin Grimes appears to be taking steps toward a plea agreement stemming from a 2016 sexual misconduct investigation.

District Court Judge Nancy Whittenburg on Tuesday, March 7, set a 10 a.m. plea hearing Monday, May 15, at the Clay County Courthouse for Grimes. The judge also ordered the Department of Corrections to prepare a pre-plea investigation report for the possible sentencing process.

Clay County Attorney Kristi Kuester emphasized that "no finalized agreement" for a plea had been reached.

"I think we're getting down to the final details of it," Kuester said. "It still could go to trial at this point, you just never know – but it seems like, within the next couple of months, we'll probably be looking at getting the plea finalized."

The former Spencer Dream Center director's attorney, Aaron Hamrock of West Des Moines, asked the judge to cancel a pretrial conference on March 6. He also asked the court to schedule the plea hearing for Grimes, saying "the parties have been working toward a resolution of this case in its entirety." The pre-sentence investigation report approved by Whittenburg "will further aid the parties as well as the court in resolving this case," he added.

"We have agreed to have him do a pre-sentence investigation so he should be cooperating with that at this point," Kuester said of Grimes. "The pre-sentence investigation will gather information about any criminal history that he may have, any employment history, substance abuse history, metal health history, family dynamics – it's really a comprehensive look at a person's life and any factors that might be taken into consideration by a sentencing court."

The investigation also explores whether a defendant has the ability to pay fines, whether her or she has the ability to work and a defendant's level of education. The report is typically ordered once a defendant is convicted or enters a guilty plea.

"The terms of the plea agreement, though, are not finalized," Kuester said. "From that filing though, it does appear – and it does sound like – he will probably be waiving the time [needed to complete the pre-sentence report] for sentencing, so we could proceed to it that same day."

Grimes filed a written arraignment and plea of “not guilty” on Oct. 14 to four Class D felony counts and two aggravated misdemeanor counts of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist. He served as pastor at DaySpring Assembly of God Church from 2008 until he resigned amid allegations of misconduct in May 2016. He also stepped down as director of the Spencer Dream Center, a non-profit outreach center based out of a historic hotel along Grand Avenue.

Investigators say the former pastor established friendships and offered counsel to four men under his care or guidance. He is then accused of using those relationships to maneuver the vulnerable individuals toward sexual situations at different points between December 2011 and January 2016.

Special Agent Trevor Modlin of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said Grimes began a grooming process by initiating sexually-charged jokes and conversations, providing photographs that were sexual in nature and engaging in touching of one victim's waistline, upper thigh and buttocks.

"As a member of the clergy, senior pastor of the church and CEO of the Dream Center, he provided or purported to provide mental health services to emotionally dependent individuals which he knew or had reason to know were significantly impaired in the ability to withhold consent to sexual conduct," Modlin said in court records.

Grimes was charged, then reported to the Clay County Jail and posted bond on Aug. 17.

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