Former Pastor Found Not Guilty of Raping Woman in Congregation

By James F. McCarty
Cleveland Plain Dealer
July 19, 2006

The Rev. Richard Manning's wife already had forgiven him for having an affair with a woman from his church.

Manning's redemption became complete Tuesday after a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court jury acquitted the former pastor of all charges that he raped the congregant several times over a three-month period last year.

After retired Judge James D. Sweeney read the 12 not guilty verdicts, Manning, 48, turned to his lawyer, Susan Moran, with a look of disbelief and asked, "Is it over?"

Told he was free to leave, Manning ran into the arms of his wife, Shelley. They embraced and cried profuse tears of joy.

"We just prayed that the truth would come out, and it did," Manning said.

"I'm so blessed I have a wife who stood by my side when I committed the sin of adultery, and that she demonstrated God's true love."

Manning's accuser, a native of Thailand in her 40s, moved with her son to Parma Heights last September. She befriended Manning, who spoke Thai and who pursued a relationship with her.

He had a message for her Tuesday: "We do not harbor any hard feelings against her at all. I hope she will forgive us."

Shelley Manning was taken aback by her husband's assumption of blame.

"I don't know if you want to say that," she told her husband. "You didn't do anything wrong."

Manning lost his job as pastor of Parma Baptist Church after the affair came to light, and he was indicted in December on charges of rape, kidnapping, gross sexual imposition and intimidation.

He now works at a dry cleaner near his home.

Assistant County Prosecutor John Kosko said he thought there was sufficient evidence to convict Manning.

He argued to the jury that Manning gained the woman's trust, then used his position of respect and power to take advantage of her.

Kosko said Manning threatened the woman with deportation and intimidated her into remaining quiet for weeks. Friends persuaded her to tell police.

When confronted with DNA evidence from the woman's home, Manning said he had a consensual relationship with her.

Moran offered evidence that after the accuser claimed she had been raped, the woman cooked dinner for Manning, asked him to pick up her son from school, and stood up in church and praised her pastor.

"This was not rape, it was love," Moran told the jury.

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