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Thread started 04/11/08 1:04pm



Congregation members testify in molestation trial of Murrieta man

10:00 PM PDT on Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Press-Enterprise

Two men who served as leaders of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation testified Thursday that a Murrieta man admitted he molested two girls during sleepovers at his home.

Despite the defense's contention that the elders' statements are confidential and protected by the penitent-clergy privilege, the two men testified that during a religious inquiry in 2006, defendant Gilbert Simental said he touched the two sisters in a sexual manner.

"I believe he stated that there were two separate occasions when he touched her on her body when she was sleeping," elder Andrew Sinay testified, referring to the younger girl. "He found her to have the covers pulled down and he went to cover her up. Apparently temptation struck at that moment and that's when he touched her."

Their testimony comes near the close of the prosecution's case against Simental, 49, who is charged with molesting two sisters when they were 9 and 10.

The Press-Enterprise does not publish the names of minors who are believed to have been victims of sexual abuse.

The prosecution alleges the girls were sexually abused while at the Simental home for sleepovers between July 2005 and July 2006.

Defense attorney Miles Clark has repeatedly objected to the elders' testimony. He has argued that the elders and Simental believed his statements were made in confidence and should be given the same protections as those given to Catholics participating in confession.

Defense's Request Rejected

A Superior Court judge and an appellate court disagreed.

Earlier this week, the 4th District Court of Appeal declined a defense petition requesting the trial be stopped so judges could examine a ruling by Riverside County Superior Court Judge F. Paul Dickerson.

Dickerson ruled Simental's statements to the elders were not covered by the penitent-clergy privilege because confidentiality was not a focal point of the judicial committee's duties.

Sinay and John Vaughn, a former elder, were given immunity by the district attorney's office, shielding them from any potential prosecution as a result of their testimony about Simental's statements, prosecutor Burke Strunsky said in court before either man testified.

In his testimony, Sinay said he did not remember there being many differences between the two incidents involving the younger girl. The incident with the older girl was different because she was awake and resisted, Sinay said.

"She basically told him not to do that and I believe he continued momentarily," Sinay testified.

Prosecutor Strunsky asked Sinay about Simental's demeanor at the time.

"It was extremely difficult for him," Sinay said.

"Did he appear to be crying?" Strunsky asked.

"Yes, initially, I believe," Sinay said.

Clark questioned Sinay about his memory of the meetings he had with Simental.

"Part of your job is to forget," Clark asked.

"Even God does that," Sinay replied.

"Is it fair to say you don't have a good recollection of what exactly Mr. Simental told you?" Clark asked.

"I have a general memory. ... So no, I don't," Sinay replied.

Unclear About Details

Vaughn recalled that Simental admitted touching each girl only on one occasion.

"Are you really able to recall the details?" Clark asked Vaughn.

"I'm a little bit nervous ... and I want to be honest about the circumstances," Vaughn said.

Vaughn said he remembered Simental telling him that he touched both girls once.

"But you're not sure?" Clark said.

"I just assured you it was one time," Vaughn said.

Vaughn agreed that he did not remember the exact details of what Simental told him.

During questioning by Strunsky, Vaughn said it was unclear why Simental touched the girls.

"I think I remember him saying he did not know why he did it," Vaughn said. "But that he did admit that he did do it."

Before the jury was brought into the courtroom, Sinay took the stand and made a statement to the court. He said it is not the practice of the Jehovah's Witnesses to cover up child maltreatment.

If convicted of all charges, Simental faces 45 years to life in prison. He remains free on $1 million bail.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday afternoon at the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley.
"Let love be your perfect weapon..." ~~Andy Biersack
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Reply #1 posted 04/11/08 2:13pm



We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.
Maya Angelou
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Reply #2 posted 04/16/08 8:20am



Murrieta man admits sexually abusing girl, denies molesting victim's sister

10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Press-Enterprise

A Murrieta man Tuesday apologized and cried as he admitted molesting the younger of two sisters he is charged with sexually abusing during his daughter's sleepover parties at their home in 2005 and 2006.

"The whole time in my mind I'm thinking: I shouldn't be doing this. Why am I doing this," defendant Gilbert Simental said as he described touching a 9-year-old girl.

His testimony came at the end of his trial on child-molestation charges at the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley.

The 49-year-old sniffled, glanced at the gold band on his finger, then looked up toward his attorney.

Defense attorney Miles Clark asked Simental if he was sorry for his actions.

"I wanted so many times to tell her how sorry I am," Simental said, referring to the younger girl. "I wish I could take it all back... She truly is the victim here."

The Press-Enterprise does not publish the names of minors believed to have been victims of sexual abuse.

While Simental admitted touching one of his daughter's friends when she slept at their home twice in 2005, he denied doing anything to the girl's older sister, who was 10, during a sleepover in July 2006.

Prosecutor Burke Strunsky questioned Simental about the prior testimony of two leaders from his Jehovah's Witnesses congregation. Earlier in the trial, John Vaughn and Andrew Sinay testified that Simental told them he touched both sisters.

Simental described the incident with the older girl as different from the two incidents with the younger girl. The older girl resisted and Simental continued to touch her for a moment before he stopped, Sinay testified.

However, Simental testified that he touched the older girl's leg while they were playing a game in the Simentals' swimming pool that requires people to close their eyes and tag other people.

"Both of those gentlemen could not remember everything that I said," Simental said, referring to Sinay and Vaughn. "I'm the one that did it. I'll remember it my whole life."

Strunsky paused for a moment.

"Well, Mr. Simental, so will these two young girls," Strunsky said.

The prosecutor recalled Sinay's testimony about Simental's decision to touch the older girl. The elder testified that Simental's decision to touch the girl while she slept was fueled by Simental's earlier contact with her in the pool.

'Not What I Told Him'

"I remember specifically what I told him and that's not what I had told him," Simental replied. "Both of them could not say they remembered all the details."

But, Strunsky said, both elders remember Simental saying that he molested both girls.

Clark later asked Simental if his conversations with Sinay and Vaughn were recorded.

They were not, Simental said.

Strunsky asked Simental if there was any reason other than sexual curiosity to explain why he touched the younger girl.

"I don't know why," Simental replied in a hushed voice. "It wasn't for any specific purpose...There is no reason or excuse at all."

During questioning by attorney Clark, Simental explained the toll his actions have taken on his life and his family.

Simental said he has not been able to return to his home since August 2006, when Murrieta police got involved.

Family Devastated

Simental cried as he described how he lost his children and his wife filed for legal separation from him in the wake of the child-molestation allegations.

"My wife and I were devastated," he said through tears. "They accused my wife of failing to protect our children. All we've ever done is protect our kids. I wish I could take back everything I did so I could be with them."

Simental said his wife had to file restraining orders against him at the urging of child protective services to prove she was taking steps to protect their children, he said.

"And it's been hard not being able to go home every day and be home with my kids," Simental said as he dabbed his eyes with the white handkerchief.

Clark then asked his client if his testimony was an honest account of what happened.

"Yes, it is," Simental said. "I've wanted to be able to tell the truth the whole time."

Clark and Strunsky are scheduled to deliver their closing statements to a jury today.

If convicted of all charges, Simental faces 45 years to life in prison.

"Let love be your perfect weapon..." ~~Andy Biersack
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Reply #3 posted 04/18/08 12:44pm



Convicted... clapping

Murrieta Man Convicted Of Molesting Sisters Ages 9, 10
Jury Takes Less Than Day To Find Simental Guilty

POSTED: 9:09 pm PDT April 17, 2008

MURRIETA, Calif. -- A 49-year-old man was found guilty Thursday of molesting two young sisters at his home in Murrieta, City News Service reported.

Gilbert Simental was accused of molesting a then-9-year-old girl in 2005 and her 10-year-old sister in 2006.

It took less than a day for the eight-woman, seven-man jury to find him guilty of three counts of lewd acts upon a child under 14.

The jury also found true an allegation of having multiple victims. He faces 45 years to life when he is sentenced May 23 by Judge F. Paul Dickerson.

The emotional reading of the verdict was attended by the girls and their mother.

While testifying in his own defense on Tuesday, Simental confessed to molesting the younger sister but continued to deny touching her sibling during a July 15, 2006, pool party/sleepover at his home.

During closing arguments Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky told the jury that Simental's surprise confession was a ploy to escape a harsher sentence, which would come with a conviction for molesting multiple victims.

"This is the defense of a desperate man," he said. "He has no credibility."

But defense attorney Miles Clark said Simental had no reason to tell the truth about one girl and lie about the other.

Church elders in the Jehovah's Witness congregation Simental attended testified during the trial that he told them he molested the girls.

The elders had tried to avoid testifying by claiming clerical privilege, but Dickerson ruled Simental talked to them not in a confessional setting but in a group setting.

The girls' mother testified during the trial that her younger daughter liked to stay at Simental's house, but late in 2005 her behavior changed and she no longer wanted to stay there.

She said that both daughters told her in late July 2006 that they had been touched by the defendant. She said she didn't call police but did call church elders.

The sisters and Simental's daughter all met at school and belonged to the same Jehovah's Witness congregation, according to testimony.

The mother said she told a teacher about the alleged molestation, and school officials called police.

Another case involving a third girl has not yet come to trial, but Strunsky had her testify in an attempt to show that the defendant has a propensity for molesting little girls.

Simental is set for arraignment on that case May 2.

Jurors deliberated for about two hours Wednesday and asked that testimony by two church elders be read back to them before being dismissed for the day.

Thursday they announced at about 2:45 p.m. that they had reached a verdict.

"Mr. Simental is now facing the rest of his life in prison because of the courage of these little girls," Strunsky said.
"Let love be your perfect weapon..." ~~Andy Biersack
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Reply #4 posted 04/18/08 1:11pm


I'd love 2 get this guy alone 4 one hour in a closed off boxing ring.
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Reply #5 posted 04/19/08 7:56am



Graycap23 said:

I'd love 2 get this guy alone 4 one hour in a closed off boxing ring.

What I'm hoping is that the parents file a civil suit against the elders for trying to cover this up. They need to set a precedent to make sure any future molesters get reported to the police immediately instead of just calling headquarters first and allowing some other child to be victim. The fact that they had to be granted immunity to testify shows me they still didn't want to come forward. disbelief

They need to take a lesson from the Catholic church. Maybe it was a long time coming, but at least they are trying to correct their wrongs.
"Let love be your perfect weapon..." ~~Andy Biersack
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