By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Former Mennonite teacher pleads guilty

Yoder’s privately retained attorney, Mark Lawrence of McMinnville, asked that sentencing be set over so a pair of psychologists could testify. He told Judge Cal Tichenor they are booked out a month.

In order to accommodate the request, Tichenor set sentencing for 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 15.

Yoder, 31, also agreed to a sentencing enhancement factor that states his conduct violated the public’s trust and his professional responsibility as an educator. He waived his right to have a jury rule on the enhancement factor.

The plea proceeding almost stalled when Lawrence raised an issue with state Department of Human Services records.

Deputy District Attorney Lisl Miller responded by threatening to withdraw the prosecution’s plea offer. After taking a break to confer, they announced they had resolved the issue.

Five counts each of third-degree rape and third-degree sodomy, also Class C felonies, were dismissed. So was an additional count of second-degree sexual abuse.

Western Mennonite, established in 1945, operates a residential campus on 45 acres north of West Salem in Polk County. It serves domestic and international students in grades 6-12, many of whom are from the McMinnville area.

Yoder, a McMinnville resident, taught social studies for four years. He also coached junior varsity baseball and basketball.

He was terminated at the time of his February 2012 arrest. He was lodged in the Yamhill County Jail on $50,000 bail initially, but posted the required $5,000 to secure his release.

Detective Michelle Formway of the McMinnville police described the course of events this way in a probable cause affidavit:

School administrators called police after Yoder admitted engaging in a sexual relationship with a student at the home he shared with his wife in Southwest McMinnville. The girl told school and law enforcement authorities the relationship began in the summer of 2010, when she was 15, and continued into the fall, by which time she had turned 16.

She said they usually met at his residence, but sometimes met at hers, also in McMinnville. The 14 counts listed on the grand jury indictment stemmed from contact they had on 10 dates between June 2010 and August 2011, according to court records.

The victim said she and Yoder discussed the risk of getting caught. She said he told her they could both face criminal prosecution if they revealed their relationship to anyone, and she believed him.

That caution formed the basis for an initial charge of coercion, defined by Oregon Revised Statute as “compelling or inducing another person to abstain from engaging in conduct that person would have a legal right to engage by means of instilling fear that if that person engages in that activity they will be falsely accused of a crime or cause criminal charges to be filed against that person.” However, Yoder was never indicted on that charge.

The victim was in the courtroom Tuesday. She was accompanied by Sarah Grabner of the district attorney’s Crime Victim’s Department and the courthouse comfort dog Marybeth.

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