Former pastor testifies in own defence at sexual assault trial

A former associate pastor at a church in Hammonds Plains, N.S., on trial for sexual assault says he had sex with a 17-year-old girl, but that his relationship with the teen never raised alarm bells in his mind.

Michael Oliver Fisher, 40, is charged with sexual assault and sexual touching by someone in a position of trust. He finished testifying Tuesday in his own defence in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax.

His accuser is now 29, but she was 17 at the time of the alleged assaults in 2008. She testified earlier at trial that she looked on Fisher as a friend, mentor and spiritual advisor. Her identity is protected by a publication ban.

Questioned Tuesday about the age difference between he and the complainant, Fisher pointed out his grandmother got married when she was just 16 and there was a 20-year age gap between his mother and father.

But when pressed for details about the encounters between him and the teen, Fisher repeatedly told Crown prosecutor Rick Woodburn, "I honestly don't know what I was thinking at that point."

Divinity degree

Fisher said the first time they kissed, he told the girl they couldn't have a relationship and he said he felt she understood that. But then he went on to describe an encounter at his apartment in Wolfville, N.S., where he was staying while he got a degree in divinity from Acadia University.

Fisher told court that when he complained he was sore from playing soccer, the girl offered to give him a massage. He said he lay face down on the bed, still wearing his shirt. But he said the girl told him she could give a better massage if he took his shirt off, so he did.

Fisher said the girl started kissing him on the back until he rolled over. Then, he said, "the rest of the clothes came off." He didn't remember who undressed whom or what they were wearing, but he said they ended up having intercourse.

Afterward, Fisher said he asked the girl if she was being honest when she'd said she was a virgin.

In her testimony, the complainant said she had no prior sexual experience and was saving herself for marriage.

"I didn't want to be in a position where I was doing things with someone that I wasn't going to marry," she said.

CBC

The woman would eventually complain to Emmanuel Baptist Church, where Fisher was an associate pastor. The church launched an investigation and Fisher was called to respond to the woman's allegations.

He filed a lengthy document laying out his version of events. It included the line: "The intimacy between us escalated very quickly and involved numerous sexual encounters."

By that point, the church had already suspended Fisher and he was eventually fired.

After leaving Emmanuel Baptist Church, Fisher became a student advisor at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., where he was working when he was charged.

The Crown and defence will make their final arguments Thursday morning.

MORE TOP STORIES