By Holly Danks | The Oregonian | May 24, 2007
HILLSBORO --A Washington County Circuit judge called the leader of a metaphysical Internet sales company manipulative and controlling and his testimony unbelievable, even as he acquitted him Wednesday of charges that he had sex with an underage boy.
Judge Steven L. Price, after a five-day trial without a jury, found Eric James Pepin, 40, not guilty of two counts of second-degree sexual abuse, four counts of third-degree sexual abuse and one count of using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct.
Also acquitted of third-degree sexual abuse and using a child in a pornographic display was Jamison Dwight Priebe, 21, who has worked for Pepin's Higher Balance Institute since he was 18.
"Everybody has stood by me who knows me," Pepin said Wednesday.
However, Price said it was "probable that the conduct alleged in all counts occurred" but he wasn't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. "There's a lack of strong corroboration," such as a date-stamp on the videotape of the sexual encounter, the judge said.
The accuser testified Pepin had him take off his shirt the first day they met at Pepin's Beaverton home in April 2004.
The accuser said Pepin asked him how old he was the first day they met and that he told him the truth. "He said students had to be 18 because he didn't like parents fussing around," the accuser said.
But within days the two were having sex, including a three-way encounter with Priebe, the youth testified. Pepin called it "crossing the abyss," the accuser said, "surrendering yourself to your teacher, your master."
Stephen A. Houze, Pepin's defense attorney, called the accuser a liar more than 100 times in his closing argument and noted that Pepin was "the perfect patsy" because society wants to believe the worst of a gay man. Houze said the accuser brought the charges because he wanted to shake down Pepin.
Pepin's Higher Balance Institute, now on Northwest Saltzman Road in Cedar Mill, reached an annual high of $2 million in Internet sales of meditation CDs, tapes and books before his arrest in July.
Pepin touts himself as a psychic and "remote viewer" who has found lost submarines and missing people and says he created the "psychic pill" Magneurol6-S that enhances brain function, heals nerve damage, heightens paranormal experiences and relieves stress for $79 a bottle.