PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The former pastor and co-founder of North Clackamas Bible Community was found guilty of sex abuse by a Multnomah County jury, District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced.
Michael Sperou, 72, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration. It’s the third time since 2015 that Sperou has been tried for sexual abuse.
Sperou repeatedly sexually abused seven young girls at the church he pastored from 1988 to 1996, Schmidt said. He was arrested on June 19, 2014, by federal officers. By the time the case went to trial in 2015, charges related to six of the seven girls went beyond the statute of limitations — Sperou was investigated in 1997 after seven girls said he had sexually molested them, but prosecutors never brought charges because of their conflicting statements.
All seven women were allowed to testify in the first trial. Sperou was found guilty of three counts of unlawful sexual penetration and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
However, in 2019, the Oregon Supreme Court overturned the convictions after finding that witnesses in testimony improperly referred to the accuser as a victim.
During the second trial in Jan. 2020, the main victim (whose charges were within the statute of limitations) testified about the sexual abuse and other forms of abuse she suffered from Sperou within the church. The other six women still were pursuing prosecution during the second trial and some were allowed to testify about specific instances of abuse they endured, officials said.
While the jury delivered an 11-1 guilty verdict, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled later that year that guilty verdicts must be unanimous in trials for serious crimes (Ramos v. Louisiana). The Oregon Supreme Court later decided that the Ramos ruling applies retroactively to Sperou’s case, which set up a third trial.
The 12-person jury in the third trial delivered a unanimous guilty verdict on Friday. Sperou will be sentenced on June 20, according to Schmidt.
“It’s been a long and difficult road to today’s verdict for the victims in this case—all seven of them. The criminal justice system is hard on victims, and the strength and perseverance that the victim has shown through repeated trials is admirable and important. It sends a message that she will not be silenced, and that abusers will be held accountable. We’re thankful that the jury was able to see the truth, and that Ms. Clark and the other victims of Mr. Sperou remained committed to achieving justice over the near-decade that it took to get here. They are amazing women who went through the unthinkable, and their strength led to this result,” said Deputy District Attorney Melissa Marrero.