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Gay self-help
guru found not guilty of sex abuse

Gay self-help
guru found not guilty of sex abuse

Two Oregon men were found not guilty of sex abuse when the prosecution failed to produce evidence that they had used "psychic snake oil" to lure a 17-year-old boy into having sex.

Eric James Pepin, 40, and Jamison Dwight Priebe, 21, were acquitted by circuit court judge Steven L. Price on Wednesday.

Steven Hauze, Pepin's attorney, explained to the Hillsboro Argus that Chris Young, now 20, had been looking to make "easy money." Pepin owns the Higher Balance Institute, an Internet-based company that promises enlightenment through products and meditation techniques. The Web site states that the company mission is to provide "the tools and knowledge you need to empower yourself, to transform your life into something amazing, and to awaken to the wonder that lives within you."

Pepin testified Tuesday that he is gay and has had sexual relations with several of his male employees, reported the Hillsboro Argus. He said he was aware that Young was underage when he hired him in March 2004. While Pepin admitted a sexual relationship, he stated that it occurred after Young turned 18.

Pepin explained that while he has a desire to help young people in need, he is extremely careful about beginning sexual relations with them.

Young testified that he met Priebe at a Starbucks and was quickly hired by the Higher Balance Institute, according to the Argus. He said that Pepin made sexual advances and told him to "cross the abyss," a phrase referring to a straight man engaging in homosexual acts to achieve spiritual enlightenment.

Both Priebe and Pepin denied Young's allegations, although videotape seized from Pepin's house showed the three men engaged in explicit sexual acts. The defendants asserted it happened after Young's 18th birthday.

The verdict was released after five days of testimony. Judge Price admitted he had problems believing Pepin or Priebe but felt the state had not provided substantial evidence, reported the Argus. Videotape was not enough to prove underage sex, he explained of his decision.

"I find it is probable that all of the conduct alleged occurred," Price said to the Argus. "But I have no choice but to find the defendants not guilty on all counts." (The Advocate)

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