Convicted marriage counselor gets 10 years' probation

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- When she had an affair with a marriage-counseling client in summer 2009, Sheila Loven testified Wednesday, "I was in a horrible frame of mind."

She was grieving for a sister who had died of cancer, and her marriage was on the rocks, said Loven, on the stand for the first time during five days of testimony in her sexual assault trial.

She was convicted Tuesday, and the sentencing phase continued Wednesday.

It was the client, an Arlington man who had sought counseling with his wife, who reintroduced her to marijuana after 25 years, Loven said.

And she denied everything that another former client, a woman, testified to on Tuesday: They did not have sex, and she never smoked marijuana in front of her child.

The sentence range on a sexual assault charge is probation to 20 years in prison.

Loven, 47, asked for probation, "not because it's the best thing for me, because what I did was wrong, disgustingly and nauseatingly inappropriate."

"I understand the gravity of my actions. I was a counselor. Every human has to take responsibility for their actions, and I'm not trying to downplay my actions at all."

Her attorney, Mark Scott, pointed to her clean criminal record.

The prosecution asked that she go to prison for at least five years.

After about an hour of deliberation, the jury sentenced her to 10 years' probation.

If she violates the terms of her probation, state District Judge Ruben Gonzalez could sentence her to four years behind bars. And she will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life, according to the Tarrant County district attorney's office.

'Poor decisions'

On the stand Wednesday, Loven denied most of what had been said about her in the past week. But she admitted to a brief affair with the Arlington man.

When he and his wife began counseling in fall 2008, Loven said, she was having marital problems of her own.

Her sister, the person in whom she confided, was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and eventually died. Loven said she had taken time off to care for the sister and had paid for some of the care. That caused financial strain on her family, which angered her husband.

It would have been better to stop working as a therapist, Loven said.

"I was in a horrible frame of mind," she testified. "Looking back on it, I made poor decisions, obviously. Some of what was told about me was true, and some was not. I hurt people. That was not my intention, and it will never be."

Loven was asked whether she helped or harmed the Arlington couple.

"I think I harmed them," she testified.

Loven said she never set out to break up the couple so that she could have an affair with the husband. After they reconciled, Loven said, she never sent threatening or demeaning text messages, as the couple testified last week.

Loven denied making a pass at a female client, as that woman testified Tuesday.

She said she never had sex with other potential clients and never used drugs in front of her youngest daughter.

Loven lost custody of the daughter, now 7, which she said was painful.

She gave up her professional counselor's license in 2010 and will never be able to reapply, she said.

'She just burned

through' her oath

Prosecutor Sean Colston told jurors that granting Loven probation would not send the appropriate message. She preys on the weak and mentally infirm, and only a prison term would show her how much pain she caused, Colston said.

"What she did is like seeing a man drowning and instead of throwing him a rope you throw him an anvil," Colston said. "She took an oath to follow, and she just burned through it like a torch."

In his closing argument, defense attorney Scott said the woman who testified that Loven sexually assaulted her lied about that, lied about Loven's drug use and lied about watching Loven have sex with a potential client.

"She wants you to believe that all these terrible things happened in her presence," Scott said. "She never called the cops, [Child Protective Services], [the Licensed Professional Counselors Board], and never filed a complaint. Is that logical?

"I don't know why she's lying. Maybe it goes back to her mental status."

That witness testified that she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and bipolar disorders and had been hospitalized for those conditions more than 20 times.

She acknowledged that she was granted immunity from prosecution for fraudulent insurance claims in exchange for her testimony against Loven.

Scott told jurors that Loven has had to follow the rules of probation while out on bail before the trial and has deviated little from what a judge ordered, he said.

"She's 40-something years old, and she's been in trouble one time," Scott said. "I would guess you're not going to see her back in the newspaper."

In a statement after the trial, Colston said: "Some segments of the public think of these as victimless crimes.

"However, the law requires more of professionals, whether that is a doctor, teacher, clergyman or counselor. ... We do take these cases seriously, and we will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law."

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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