FORT WORTH - A former licensed professional counselor was sentenced to 10 years probation for having sex with one of her clients.
Should Sheila Loven, 47, violate the terms of her probation she could be sentenced to up to four years in prison.
Loven took the stand Wednesday and told the jury that she began to have feelings for a man she felt sorry for but her lover ended their relationship and decided to try and make his marriage work with his wife.
Loven denied much of what had been said about her previously. But she admitted to having a brief affair with the husband of a couple who hired her to help them save their marriage. Loven was asked if she believed she helped or harmed her patients.
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"I think I harmed them," Loven testified.
Loven told the jury that she never made a pass at a woman she was counseling, never set out to break up a married couple so that she could have an affair with the husband and never sent threatening or demeaning text messages to either one of her clients, as testimony had said.
Loven said that her lover, the husband of the couple she was accused of breaking up, was the one who re-introduced her to marijuana after 25 years, that she never had sex with any potential clients and that she never used drugs in front of her youngest daughter.
Loven, who remarried to David Cleckler two years ago, asked the jury to grant her probation and take her lack of a past criminal history into consideration. Due to the conviction, Loven will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life, according to an official with the Tarrant County district attorney's office.
"I'm just asking that you take into consideration everything that you've heard and make the best decision you can," Loven said. "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."
Sean Colston, Tarrant County prosecutor, told jurors that it was their duty to send Loven to prison for at least five years. Granting Loven probation would not send the appropriate message, Colston said. Loven preys on the weak and mentally infirm and it would take a prison term to show her how much pain she caused the people who came to her and trusted her, 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."
Loven told the jury that she was having marital problems of her own in 2009 when the man she was convicted of sexually assaulting came into her office with his wife and asked for help saving their marriage.
Loven said that her sister, the person in whom she confided, was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and that it eventually killed her. Loven said she had to take off from work to care for her sister. Paying for some of her sister's care caused her financial status to deteriorate which angered her husband because she could no longer contribute to the family's upkeep.
It would have been better to have stopped working as a therapist at that time, Loven said.
"I was in a horrible frame of mind," she testified. "I did not have that to offer. 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 surrendered her professional counselor's license on April 25, 2010, and will never be able to reapply, she told the jury. Loven also lost custody of her youngest daughter, who is 7, which she said was extremely painful.
Loven said that when she told her lover's wife that she had feelings for her husband; the wife's face "went white." The next day her lover disappeared, Loven said. Two days after that disappearance the husband came by her apartment and told her that he and his wife were going to try to reconcile and put the marriage that Loven had torn apart back together.
"It's my fault that I'm sitting here today," Loven testified. I want probation "not because it's the best thing for me. Because what I did was wrong, disgustingly and nauseatingly inappropriate."
Mark Scott, Loven's attorney, told the jury that the woman who testified that his client sexually assaulted her lied about being sexually assaulted, lied about Loven's drug use and lied about Loven having 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, CPS (Child Protective Services), LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor 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. It's not consistent."
Scott said during his closing argument that Loven has had to follow the rules of probation while she was on pre-trial release. Loven adhered to those rules and deviated very little from what the court prescribed, Scott said.
"I would say 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."