silentlambs - It's time to protect children. It's time to stop being a silent lamb.
Home Assistance Personal Experiences Education Press Donate/Become a SL Member Sitemap silentlambs Store
Search

 

*Read about Jehovah's Witnesses Trying to Protect Another Riverside Molester Here

 

Jehovah's Witnesses elders refusing to testify in Murrieta molestation case

 

http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_C_trial06.439464c.html
10:00 PM PST on Wednesday, March 5, 2008

By TAMMY McCOY
The Press-Enterprise

A legal battle is looming over Riverside County's need to protect children, and people's right to practice religion without government intrusion.

A prosecutor wants leaders of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation to testify about what a Murrieta man accused of molesting two girls told them. So far, two of the elders who oversee the Windsong Valley Congregation in Wildomar say that defendant Gilbert Simental's statements are confidential and they do not want to testify.

Simental's attorney Miles Clark says his client is innocent of the molestation charges.

Riverside County prosecutor Burke Strunsky says the elders should testify because they have already told others that Simental admitted to molesting two girls, and therefore confidentiality laws do not apply, court records state.

California law protects statements made to clergy members who are required by their faith's practices to keep them secret.

Many of the nation's courts have traditionally respected the rights of religious organizations to keep communications secret and beyond the reach of the law, said Colorado-based attorney L. Martin Nussbaum, partner in the firm Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons.

This protection encourages people to confide in their spiritual leaders, said Nussbaum, who is co-chairman of his firm's Religious Institution Group.

Lawyers who bring suits against religious groups often say the law's penitent-clergy privilege is used to conceal evidence in child sex-abuse cases.

"Religious organizations have used and abused the privilege to protect themselves from liability and responsibility," said Minnesota-based attorney Jeff Anderson, who seeks redress for his clients.

Religious groups argue the privilege covers internal communications and communications with their members. But Anderson said the privilege actually applies when a person is seeking spiritual guidance or making a confession.

California's courts are among a few in the nation to rule against religious leaders who refuse to release information under the penitent-clergy privilege, Nussbaum said.

In 2005, two California courts ruled that Jehovah's Witnesses and the Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles had to turn over information related to child sex-abuse claims. Both lost their argument that the information was protected by the penitent-clergy privilege.

Murrieta Case

Simental, 49, of Murrieta, is charged with molesting two of his daughter's friends when they came to his home for sleepovers between July 2005 and July 2006, according to court papers.

The girls are sisters who were 9 and 10 at the time, according to the court records.

"My client is looking forward to going to court and clearing his name," said Clark, Simental's attorney. "He knows the allegations are false."

Simental is free on $1 million bail following his arrest in 2006. Simental's wife filed for legal separation from him in 2007.

A Murrieta school principal called police after the girls' mother said she did not want Simental near her daughters, according to court records. One of Simental's two daughters attends the same school, court records show.

Simental faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted. His trial has not begun. He is due in court Thursday.

Strunsky, the prosecutor, argues in court papers that Simental confessed in 2006 to the elders that he sexually abused the sisters.

That summer the girls' parents went to congregation elders with the abuse claims and the elders oversaw a judicial committee, according to Strunsky. After the judicial committee, Elder Andrew Sinay talked about Simental's admissions with the girls' mother, according to Strunsky.

Sinay and Elder John Vaughn, who declined to comment for this story, argue in court papers that whatever was said during a judicial committee falls under the penitent-clergy privilege.

Denying the Jehovah's Witnesses the benefits of the clergy-penitent privilege because their pastoral practices are different from other religions is unconstitutional, the elders argued in court papers.

The Jehovah's Witnesses public information office in New York also declined to comment.

Ruling in Napa County

A Napa County court in 2005 rejected the same penitent-privilege argument in a civil lawsuit that accused the Jehovah's Witnesses organization of covering up child sex-abuse allegations, according to court records posted online.

Statements by a man accused of child molestation to elders during a judicial committee are not covered by the penitent-clergy privilege, because the committee was not required by the organization's practices to keep the statements a secret, according to Judge Raymond Guadagni's decision.

The committee had to share information about potential child-molestation cases with its headquarters, the ruling said.

A nonpublic database is kept of Jehovah's Witnesses who elders determine have committed acts of child molestation, said Bill Bowen, a vocal critic and former Jehovah's Witnesses elder who was expelled in 2002.

Bowen said he was expelled for causing divisions after he brought to light victims of abuse who said they were silenced by the organization's policy. He created Silentlambs, a Web site described as devoted to giving abuse survivors a voice.

Bowen said the Napa County case was one of nine settled in 2007.

A statement on the Jehovah's Witnesses own Web site reads: "We do not condone or protect child molesters. ... During the last 100 years, only eleven elders have been sued for child abuse in thirteen lawsuits filed in the United States."

The Jehovah's Witnesses and the Roman Catholic Church are not the only religious groups to be sued and accused of concealing child sexual abuse.

Similar lawsuits have been filed against other religious organizations across the nation.

Seattle-based attorney Timothy D. Kosnoff said he has handled 25 cases against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for people seeking to recover damages for alleged abuse. He has 11 cases pending.

He said the legal battles being waged on the confidentiality privilege issue in child sex-abuse cases provide a sense of what matters to Americans.

"You can believe whatever you want but can't use it to justify what is socially injurious behavior," he said.

"If society believes it's OK to have valuable evidence suppressed ... if they are willing to have the truth-seeking process compromised ... well, that is a judgment society has made."

Nussbaum said ultimately these legal battles are over a person's right to confide in a member of the clergy.

"It's important for people to have folks they can speak to in an absolutely privileged manner so they can have the comfort of that counseling relationship," he said. "That is at issue."

Reach Tammy McCoy at 951-375-3729 or tmccoy@PE.com

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Clergy Privilege Scope At Issue In Molestation Prosecution

A child molestation case in Riverside County, California is testing the reach of California's privilege for communications with clergy. Yesterday's Riverside Press-Enterprise reports that prosecutors want two elders in a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation to testify about statements made to them by Gilbert Simental, who is charged with molesting two of his daughter's friends. The victims' parents complained to congregational elders about the abuse, and the elders convened a judicial committee to look into the charges. Prosecutor Burke Strunsky says that Simental confessed to the judicial committee, and afterwards, Elder Andrew Sinay talked about the admissions with the girls' mother. Simental's attorneys say their client is innocent. Prosecutors will likely point to a 2005 decision by a Napa County court holding that statements by an accused molester made to Jehovah's Witnesses elders during a judicial committee are not covered by the penitent-clergy privilege because the committee is not required by the organization's practices to keep the statements confidential. The information goes to Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters, and it keeps a non-public database of those who elders have found committed child molestation.

Posted by Howard Friedman --PermaLink: 10:24 AM  

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


March 14, 2008

Molestation trial postponed for another week

The Desert Sun wire services

http://www.mydesert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080314/NEWS08/80314011/1263/update

Trial for a 49-year-old Jehovah's Witness suspected of molesting three girls was postponed today for another week.

Gilbert Simental is accused of lewd behavior with a 9-year-old and two 10-year-old daughters of congregation members between 2005 and 2006, during sleepovers or visits by the girls to his Murrieta home.

He allegedly told other members of the congregation about two of the girls and was reproved and transferred to a congregation in French Valley, said Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky.

His alleged crimes came to light when the mother of two of the girls
told school officials she didn't want the suspect near her children and the
school principal called police, according to court papers.

Prosecutors wants elders of the congregation to whom Simental allegedly
confessed to testify against the defendant.

But two of the men, John Vaughn and Andrew Sinay, have filed motions to quash subpoenas to appear, claiming Simental's confession is protected by religious privilege.

Prosecutors claim the statements were not made in confidence to a minister -- like a confession to a priest -- but rather to a judicial committee of three elders, and then disseminated to the parents of the alleged victims.

The elders opted not to go to law enforcement and at least in one of the cases, parents were told they did not have to go to police, the documents state.

The trial date was moved to March 20.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jehovah's Witnesses elders must testify in Murrieta molestation case, judge rules

10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, March 25, 2008

http://www.pe.com/localnews/rivcounty/stories/PE_News_Local_H_faith26.4193557.html

Listen to Podcast HERE

 

By TAMMY McCOY
The Press-Enterprise

Leaders of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation must reveal what a Murrieta man suspected of molesting two girls told them, despite their claims the conversation were protected by clergy confidentiality, a judge ruled Tuesday.

The congregation leaders must testify in the man's trial on child-molestation charges, said Riverside County Judge F. Paul Dickerson.

The defense attorney says he will appeal.

Experts say the ruling raises compelling legal questions.

"It is an interesting legal issue that does need to be clarified by the court," said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

She said an appeals court could decide if the law should extend beyond a traditional confession into this type of hearing.

California law protects statements made to clergy members who are required by their faith's practices to keep them secret.

In his ruling, Dickerson said testimony from Elder Andrew Sinay showed the Jehovah's Witnesses' judicial committee system is not designed to keep information confidential.

Dickerson said this was not a case where Gilbert Simental went to the elders seeking forgiveness or guidance.

"This was the opposite," he said. "It was more like a third-party investigation into immoral conduct."

In this case, the judge said, the elders' duty was to determine guilt and to protect the congregation, not to keep the communications under wraps.

"It's an investigative, fact-finding body without regard for confidentiality," he said. "This was a tribunal designed to protect the congregation."

Dickerson's ruling came in response to prosecutor Burke Strunsky's request to force the elders to testify. Jury selection is already under way in Simental's trial at the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley.

"This case highlights the perils of interpreting this privilege in an overly broad fashion," Strunsky said.

Simental, 49, is charged with molesting two of his daughter's friends when they came to his home for sleepovers between July 2005 and July 2006, according to court papers. The girls are sisters who were 9 and 10 at the time, the records show.

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

After the ruling, defense attorney Miles Clark said he will appeal Dickerson's decision.

"My client relied on the elders to keep his statements confidential," Clark said.

Jehovah's Witnesses should not be treated differently from members of other faiths simply because their practices are different, he said.

Clark said Simental's statements to the judicial committee should be treated the way the statements a Roman Catholic makes to a priest in a confessional are.

During the hearing at the Southwest Justice Center, prosecutor Strunsky questioned Sinay about the congregation's practices and how information obtained during a judicial committee is handled.

Sinay said they share information obtained during judicial committee proceedings with the Jehovah's Witnesses office in New York and with committees that are called on in an appellate capacity.

Strunsky also questioned the parents of the two girls.

The girls' parents testified that after the children came to their mother with their allegations, she met with Sinay and Elder John Vaughn, who agreed they would inform the couple of the outcome of the inquiry.

The girls' mother testified that Sinay later told her that Simental had made a full confession.

While Sinay did not provide her with a verbatim confession, she said Sinay did tell her that Simental had confessed.

Clark asked whether Sinay ever said that Simental had confessed to molesting her daughters.

The woman said he did not use the word "molest" during their conversation.

The girls' father testified that during a meeting with Sinay, Vaughn and another elder, he was also told that Simental confessed during a judicial committee meeting.

The elders also told the father that Simental had never done this before and was no danger to the community, he said.

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

Simental is charged with a similar allegation in another criminal case. That case is currently awaiting trial.

He is free on $1 million bail.

Staff writer Jessica Logan contributed to this report.

Reach Tammy McCoy at 951-375-3729 or tmccoy@PE.com

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jury selection to begin in trial of a man suspected of molesting three girls

The Desert Sun wire services • March 27, 2008

http://www.mydesert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080327/NEWS08/80327003/1263/update

Jury selection is set to begin today in the trial of a Jehovah's Witness suspected of molesting three girls in his congregation.

Gilbert Simental, 49, is accused of lewd behavior with a 9-year-old and two 10-year-old daughters of congregation members during sleepovers or visits by the girls to his Murrieta home between 2005 and 2006.

He allegedly told other members of the congregation about two of the girls and was transferred to a congregation in French Valley, according to Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky.

His alleged crimes came to light when the mother of two of the girls told school officials she didn't want the suspect near her children and the school principal called police, according to court papers.

On Tuesday, Judge F. Paul Dickerson ruled that his alleged confessions to congregation elders is not privileged and could be revealed in court.

Two of the elders filed a motion to quash subpoenas for their appearance
and testimony in court.

Dickerson agreed with the prosecution contention that the statements to the elders were made in committee and the results of the proceedings disseminated to the parents.

Trial is expected to start sometime next week, Strunsky said outside court.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Channel 4 KNBC NEWS

Murrieta Religious Leader Accused Of Molesting 3 Girls

Jury Selection Begins In Case Of Simental, 49

POSTED: 11:16 pm PDT March 27, 2008

http://www.knbc.com/news/15729194/detail.html

 

MURRIETA, Calif. -- Jury selection began Thursday in the trial of a Jehovah's Witness leader accused of molesting three girls in his congregation, City News Service reported.

 

Gilbert Simental, 49, is accused of lewd behavior with a 9-year-old and two 10-year-old daughters of congregation members during sleepovers or visits by the girls to his Murrieta home between 2005 and 2006.

 

Officials said that Thursday was the first day of jury selection, with attorneys questioning prospective jurors about their possible biases and their ability to sit on the case and make a fair judgment.

 

Judge F. Paul Dickerson ordered those jurors not excused for hardship or any other reason to return to court April 3, according to officials.

 

Testimony is expected to begin the week of April 6, officials said.

 

Simental's alleged crimes came to light when the mother of two of the girls told school officials she didn't want the suspect near her children and the school principal called police, according to court papers.

 

The defendant had allegedly told other members of the congregation about two of the girls and was transferred to a congregation in French Valley, according to Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky.

 

On Tuesday, Judge F. Paul Dickerson ruled that his alleged confessions to congregation elders were not privileged and could be revealed in court.

 

Two of the elders filed a motion to quash subpoenas for their appearance and testimony in court, officials said.

 

Dickerson agreed with the prosecution contention that the statements to the elders were made in committee and the results of the proceedings disseminated to the parents, officials said.

 

Authorities said the elders told the girls' parents that they did not have to go to police.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Appeal highlights church confidentiality

http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_D_appeal05.41eb983.html
10:00 PM PDT on Friday, April 4, 2008

By TAMMY J. McCOY
The Press-Enterprise

A Murrieta man accused of child molestation is asking an appellate court to overturn a judge's ruling that ordered leaders of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation to testify about admissions he reportedly made to them.

The petition comes after last week's ruling by Riverside County Superior Court Judge F. Paul Dickerson ordering two congregation elders to testify during Gilbert Simental's trial on child molestation charges.

Simental's attorney, Miles Clark, said he believes the 4th District Court of Appeal needs to hear the case and rule on these important issues.

 

 

Prosecutor Burke Strunsky declined to comment.

A jury is being selected in Simental's trial at the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley.

The 49-year-old is charged with molesting two of his daughter's friends when they came to his home for sleepovers between July 2005 and July 2006, according to court papers.

The girls are sisters and were ages 9 and 10 at the time, the records show.

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

The petition on Simental's behalf asks the appellate court to stop the criminal trial until the appeals court issues a ruling.

Among the issues raised in the petition is whether the legal privilege making confidential a person's statements to a member of the clergy actually discriminates against the Jehovah's Witnesses' practices.

State law says a penitential communication is one made in confidence, and "in the presence of no third person."

"In requiring 'the presence of no third person,' it would appear that the state is depriving Elders of the Church and its lay members the right to assert the privilege of confidentially afforded to congregants and clergy in other religious traditions involving one-on-one confessions or counseling with clergy," according to court papers filed Thursday.

Simental's statements to a judicial committee of elders should be treated the same way as statements a Roman Catholic makes to a priest during the practice of confession, attorney Clark has argued in Superior Court.

Simental's conversations with Elders Andrew Sinay and John Vaughn were confidential and made during the meeting of a church judicial committee formed in response to allegations of child sex abuse, Clark has said.

In last week's ruling in Superior Court, Judge Dickerson said having three elders involved made this judicial committee a fact-finding body not concerned with maintaining confidentiality.

A judicial committee was akin to an investigation into immoral conduct, not a religious practice in which Simental went to the elders seeking forgiveness or spiritual guidance, Dickerson said.

In his decision, Dickerson noted that Sinay and Vaughn met with the parents of the two girls who allege they were molested by Simental.

Sinay later told the girls' parents that Simental confessed to them, both parents testified.

Sinay denied telling anyone about Simental's statements to him when he testified last week in court.

Sinay testified that everything he hears during the course of the judicial committee is confidential and members of his congregation rely on that.

If he failed to respect their confidences, Sinay said he would become an ineffective spiritual leader.

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

Jury selection in Simental's trial is expected to resume Monday.

Staff writer Richard K. De Atley contributed to this report.

Reach Tammy J. McCoy at 951-375-3729 or tmccoy@PE.com

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Jehovah's Witness elders must testify about molest allegations

 

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/riverside/20080407-1442-molest.html

 

2:42 p.m. April 7, 2008

 

MURRIETA – Church elders in the trial of a Jehovah's Witness suspected of molesting three girls will have to testify at his trial now that a U.S. District Court of Appeal Monday summarily denied a petition to overturn a local judge's ruling compelling the testimony.

Opening statements are set for Monday afternoon in the trial of Gilbert Simental, 49, who is accused of lewd behavior with a 9-year-old and two 10-year-old daughters of congregation members during visits by the girls to his Murrieta home in 2005 and 2006.

Simental last week filed an appeal with the 4th District Court of Appeal, asking that the court overturn a ruling by Riverside County Superior Court Judge F. Paul to have the elders, John Vaughn and Andrew Sinay, testify.

The defendant allegedly told these men about his actions with the girls, according to court papers.

In February, Vaughn and Sinay had filed a motion to quash a subpoena to testify, citing privileged and confidential confession to church elders.

However, the judge agreed with the prosecution that the statements made to the elders were made in committee and also that the elders spoke to the parents of the girls following the alleged confession.

Simental maintains that he spoke in confidence to the elders.

Last week, according to records with the 4th District Court of Appeal, Simental filed a petition with the court to hear the case and in the meantime, force the superior court to suspend the criminal proceedings.

The appellate court sent a fax to the Superior Court Monday afternoon informing it of the decision.

Simental's alleged crimes came to light when the mother of two of the girls told school officials she didn't want the suspect near her children. The school principal subsequently called police, according to court papers.

After the defendant allegedly told the elders of the congregation about two of the girls, he was transferred to a congregation in French Valley, according to deputy district attorney Burke Strunsky.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_S_sfaith08.3cd3b29.html

Murrieta man's molestation trial begins after attempt to halt it fails

10:00 PM PDT on Monday, April 7, 2008

By TAMMY J. McCOY
The Press-Enterprise

A Murrieta man's trial on molestation charges began Monday after an appellate court declined his request to halt it and rule on whether two Jehovah's Witnesses' elders could be required to testify.

In opening statements, a prosecutor told jurors the man touched girls during his daughter's sleepover party in Murrieta.

"The defendant Gilbert Simental fondled three separate girls by exploiting the innocent trust of his own daughter's slumber party," prosecutor Burke Strunsky told the jury.

Simental, 49, is charged with molesting two of his daughter's friends at his home from July 2005 to July 2006. The girls, who are sisters, were ages 9 and 10 at the time, the prosecutor said.

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

Simental is charged in a separate case with molesting another girl. That case is awaiting trial at the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley.

Defense attorney Miles Clark chose to reserve his opening statement until the defense begins its case.

Strunsky's opening statement came hours after learning that an appellate court declined to hear a defense petition requesting it stop the trial to address a ruling by Riverside County Superior Court Judge F. Paul Dickerson.

Dickerson has ordered elders from Simental's Jehovah's Witnesses congregation to testify about statements Simental reportedly made to them during an inquiry into child molestation allegations.

Simental's attorneys had asked the appellate court to overturn the order and not force the elders to testify.

"We are disappointed that they did not grant the stay and decide the issue," defense attorney Clark said Monday morning.

Clark said he will ask another court to hear the defense's petition and hopes to file paperwork with the appropriate court later this week.

The defense maintains that the state is depriving the elders and its members of the right to keep these statements confidential while giving that right to others who engage in one-on-one confessions or counseling with clergy, according to court papers filed with the appellate court.

Simental and elders Andrew Sinay and John Vaughn all believed their conversations were confidential during their inquiry into child sex abuse, Clark has said.

In his ruling, Dickerson said that with three elders involved, their judicial committee became a fact-finding body, not one focused on confidentiality.

When someone is removed from the Jehovah's Witnesses, notes from a judicial committee meeting are passed on to another committee that handles the appeal. The elders must send paperwork explaining evidence presented to the Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters in New York after the person is dismissed.

Strunsky, the prosecutor, declined to comment on the appellate court's ruling.

However, during Strunsky's opening statement, he told jurors that elders from Simental's Jehovah's Witnesses congregation would testify.

Simental told the elders that he molested the girls, Strunsky said.

"You are going to see in this case three very, very brave little girls," he said. "They have no reason to make this up."

The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday at the Southwest Justice Center.

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

Reach Tammy J. McCoy at 951-375-3729 or tmccoy@PE.com

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_H_faith10.42259fb.html

 

Girls testify in molestation trial of Murrieta man
Press-Enterprise, CA - 11 minutes ago 4-10-08
He is free on bail of $1 million. The trial will resume today when two Jehovah's Witnesses elders from Simental's congregation are expected to testify.

 

Girls testify in molestation trial of Murrieta man

10:00 PM PDT on Wednesday, April 9, 2008

By TAMMY J. McCOY
The Press-Enterprise

One girl at a Murrieta man's trial Wednesday gulped back tears as she told of being molested, and her sister testified calmly about how wrong it was that someone touched her.

"It made me feel weird, so I knew it was wrong," the 12-year-old girl said. "Nobody should really do that to a kid."

Her 11-year-old sister began to cry moments after identifying the defendant, Gilbert Simental, as the man she says molested her.

Simental, 49, is on trial at the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley and is charged with molesting both girls, one of whom was his daughter's best friend, 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 11-year-old girl, who said she was best friends with Simental's daughter at the time, testified that they attended a party at Simental's home given by his daughter in July 2006.. The older sister was unsure about the date. The younger girl did not spend the night but her older sister did.

Prosecutor Burke Strunsky asked the 11-year-old why she did not sleep at the Simentals' house on the night of the party.

 

"Because I was afraid," the girl muttered as she began to cry. "Because of what happened."

The girl struggled to regain her composure and then, at her request, the court took a break and gave her some time to collect herself.

She took the stand again and struggled against tears to answer questions, occasionally putting her hand to her face as if to shield Simental from her view.

 

The girl testified that Simental touched her on two occasions.

"I was scared. I couldn't believe it was happening," she said as she wept.

 

Time at House

Defense attorney Miles Clark asked the 11-year-old about the second time she spent the night at the Simental house after the first alleged incident of touching.

"You wanted to spend the night?" he asked.

"Not really," the girl replied. She didn't want to say no to Simental's daughter, she testified.

Clark questioned the child about when she came forward with these allegations.

The girl said she waited almost a year to tell her mother about what happened to her. Clark asked whether Simental told her to keep anything a secret for him.

No, she said.

She ultimately told her mother because she was scared.

"If I didn't, I would still go to their house and it would happen again," she testified.

The girl's older sister testified that she was touched while two other girls, including his daughter, were sleeping nearby on an air mattress in the Simentals' living room.

"Did you yell?" Clark asked her. "No," the 12-year-old said.

"How come?" Clark asked.

"Because I didn't know if it was bad or not," she said.

Clark asked if she told Simental to stop touching her.

"No," she said. Instead, she went to the bathroom to get away from him.

 

Speaking Up

After leaving the bathroom, she woke Simental's daughter and explained what happened.

The 12-year-old had Simental's daughter wake his wife and told the woman that she wanted to go home.

"I just told her I needed to go home, I didn't say why," the girl testified.

The 12-year-old later talked with her sister, and both girls learned what happened to the other.

The sisters later went to their mother and told her what happened, they said.

Clark asked the 12-year-old whether her father was living at home at the time of the alleged abuse.

She said her father was not living with them at the time.

Prosecutor Strunsky asked the 12-year-old whether her father's absence had any bearing on what she told her mother about Simental.

No, she said.

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

The trial will resume today when two Jehovah's Witnesses elders from Simental's congregation are expected to testify. 

 

Reach staff writer Tammy J. McCoy at 951-375-3729 or tmccoy@PE.com  

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Third Girl Testifies Friend's Father Molested Her
KNBC.com, CA - 23 minutes ago
Simental is a Jehovah's Witness. Church elder John Vaughn testified Thursday that the defendant admitted to him that he had touched the two sisters. ...

 

Third Girl Testifies Friend's Father Molested Her

UPDATED: 3:37 pm PDT April 10, 2008

 

MURRIETA, Calif. -- A man accused of molesting two underage sisters inappropriately touched a third girl during a pool party at his home, an 11-year-old girl testified Thursday.

The girl, who was 9 when the alleged molestation took place in 2006, took the stand in the trial of Gilbert Simental, 49, who is charged with three counts of lewd acts with a child under 14 and an allegation that multiple victims were involved.

 

He faces 45 years to life if convicted on all charges, according to Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky

 

The girl who testified Thursday was at a pool party for Simental's daughter in July 2006.

She said she couldn't swim and Simental offered to get her past the deep end to join the other girls in the pool.

 

"I was trying to get over to the other side where the other girls were playing," she said. "He took away my inner tube and he kind of held me strangely. I could feel his fingers (on her private area)," she said.

A case accusing Simental of molesting the girl was filed separately.

Authorities began investigating Simental when the mother of two other girls approached school officials and said her daughters were molested by the defendant.

 

The third girl told her mother that Simental had "pushed" her in the pool, but the mother initially took that to mean that she was pushed into the pool, she testified Thursday.

"I didn't understand what she was saying," she said.

It was a year later when the mother, concerned about the girl's recurring yeast infections, questioned her daughter more closely and became concerned she had also been molested.

 

That case has yet to come to trial, Strunsky said.

Simental is a Jehovah's Witness. Church elder John Vaughn testified Thursday that the defendant admitted to him that he had touched the two sisters.

"The recollection I have is that he touched both girls one time," Vaughn said.

However, under cross-examination by defense attorney Miles Clark, the elder said "I couldn't give you exact verbatim details of everything he said."

On Wednesday, the mother of the sisters testified that both her daughters told her they had been touched by the defendant in July 2006.

She said she didn't call police but did call church elders.

The elders -- Vaughn and Andrew Sinay -- lost a motion to prevent them from testifying.

An appeal to the 4th District Court of Appeal, asking the court to overturn the ruling, was filed by Simental before the trial began on Monday. The court declined to hear the appeal.

 

Simental maintains that he spoke in confidence to the elders. But the judge agreed with the prosecution's contention that the alleged confession to the elders was made in committee, and then information was disseminated to others.

 

The woman also told a teacher about the alleged molestation, and school officials called police.

 

The older of the two sisters, who is 12, testified Wednesday that Simental first touched her during the pool party and sleepover at his Murrieta home. She and her sister were friends with his daughter.

The girl said Simental touched her thighs as the children played in his pool and then again later that night while she was on an air mattress in his living room. She said she awakened to find him lying next to her on the mattress.

"He was just touching my legs and stuff," she testified.

The child said she protested but the defendant just said "shhh" and continued his actions.

 

"I didn't really get it," she said. "It made me feel weird, so I knew it was wrong."

The girl said she turned over on her stomach in the hopes that the defendant would go away, but he continued touching her.

"I turned and he just wouldn't stop," the girl said.

Simental allegedly touched the child over her clothes and under her bra and pajama shorts.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------

 

http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_D_faith11.41dc684.html

 

Congregation members testify in molestation trial of Murrieta man
Press-Enterprise, CA - 5 minutes ago 4-11-08
By TAMMY J. McCOY Two men who served as leaders of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation testified Thursday that a Murrieta man admitted he molested two girls

 

Congregation members testify in molestation trial of Murrieta man

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

 

By TAMMY J. McCOY
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.

 

Reach Tammy J. McCoy at 951-375-3729 or tmccoy@PE.com

 

 

RELATED

Congregation members testify in molestation trial of Murrieta man
Press-Enterprise, CA - 19 minutes ago
By TAMMY J. McCOY Two men who served as leaders of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation testified Thursday that a Murrieta man admitted he molested two girls ...

Murrieta man's molestation trial begins after attempt to halt it fails
Press-Enterprise, CA - Apr 7, 2008
Dickerson has ordered elders from Simental's Jehovah's Witnesses congregation to testify about statements Simental reportedly made to them during an inquiry ...

Girls testify in molestation trial of Murrieta man
Press-Enterprise, CA - Apr 9, 2008
He is free on bail of $1 million. The trial will resume today when two Jehovah's Witnesses elders from Simental's congregation are expected to testify.
Third Girl Testifies Friend's Father Molested Her KNBC.com
all 2 news articles »

Jehovah's Witnesses elders must testify in Murrieta molestation ...
Press-Enterprise, CA - Mar 25, 2008
By TAMMY McCOY Leaders of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation must reveal what a Murrieta man suspected of molesting two girls told them, despite their ...

Appeal highlights church confidentiality
Press-Enterprise, CA - Apr 4, 2008
Simental's attorney, Miles Clark, said he believes the 4th District Court of Appeal needs to hear the case and rule on these important issues. ...

Jury selection began in trial of man suspected of molesting three ...
The Desert Sun, CA - Mar 28, 2008
Jury selection began yesterday in the trial of a Jehovah's Witness suspected of molesting three girls in his congregation. Gilbert Simental, 49, is accused ...

 

 

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

http://www.pe.com/localnews/rivcounty/stories/PE_News_Local_C_faith16.434b9a7.html
10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, April 15, 2008

By TAMMY J. McCOY
The Press-Enterprise

By TAMMY J. McCOY
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.

 

Reach Tammy J. McCoy at 951-375-3729 or tmccoy@PE.com 

----------------------------------------------------------------

Closing arguments today in Murrieta molestation trial

The Desert Sun wire services • April 16, 2008

http://www.mydesert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080416/NEWS08/80416002

Closing arguments are due to get under way today in the case of a man accused of molesting two underage sisters in Murrieta.

Gilbert Simental, 49, is charged with three counts of lewd acts with a child under 14 and an allegation that multiple victims were involved.

He faces 45 years to life if convicted on all charges, according to Deputy District
Attorney Burke Strunsky.

Another case involving a third girl has not yet come to trial.

Simental's alleged crimes came to light when the mother of two girls approached school officials and said her daughters were molested by the defendant.

The older of the two sisters testified last week that the defendant first touched her during a pool party and sleepover at his Murrieta home.

She and her sister were friends with the 49-year-old defendant's daughter, who was
about the same age as the younger girl.

The girls' family and the defendant's family belonged to the same Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in Murrieta.

The girl said Simental touched her thighs as the children played in his pool and then again later that night while she was on an air mattress in his living room. She said she awakened to find him lying next to her on the mattress.

``He was just touching my legs and stuff,'' she testified.

The child said she protested but the defendant just said ``shhh'' andcontinued.

``I didn't really get it,'' she said. ``It made me feel weird, so I knew it was wrong.''

The girl said she turned over on her stomach in the hopes that the defendant would go away, but he continued touching her.

``I turned and he just wouldn't stop,'' the girl said.

Simental allegedly touched the child over her clothes and under her bra and pajama shorts.

The mother of the sisters testified that both her daughters told her in July 2006 that they had been touched by the defendant.

She said she didn't call police but did call church elders.

The woman also told a teacher about the alleged molestation, and school officials called police.

----------------------------

MURRIETA: Man found guilty of molestations

By The Californian wire service | Thursday, April 17, 2008 7:28 PM PDT

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/04/18/news/californian/murrieta/b419f15c917b8afd8825742f000aa6c0.txt

 

MURRIETA ---- A 49-year-old man was found guilty Thursday of molesting two young sisters at his home in Murrieta.

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 jurors to find him guilty of three counts of lewd acts upon a child under 14.

The jury also found true an allegation that he had 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 Tuesday, Simental confessed to molesting the younger sister but continued to deny touching her sibling during a pool party/sleepover at his home.

"Mr. Simental is now facing the rest of his life in prison because of the courage of these little girls," Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky said.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

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

http://www.knbc.com/news/15917878/detail.html

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.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

CONVICTED!!!

 

Murrieta man convicted of molesting two sisters sentenced today

The Desert Sun wire services • June 27, 2008

http://www.mydesert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080627/NEWS08/80627004/1263/update

A 50-year-old Murrieta man convicted of molesting two young sisters in 2005 and 2006 is scheduled to be sentenced today.

Gilbert Simental was convicted of lewd behavior with a child under 14
for molesting two sisters he knew from his Jehovah's Witnesses congregation and
faces 45 years to life in prison when he is sentenced this morning.

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 for molesting a 9- year-old girl in 2005 and her 10-year-old sister in 2006.

The jury also found true an allegation of multiple victims.

While testifying in his own defense, Simental confessed to molesting the younger sister but denied touching her sibling at a July 15, 2006, pool party and sleepover at his home.

Church elders in the Jehovah's Witness congregation that 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 the judge ruled spoke with them in a group setting, not a confessional setting.

The defendant has another case pending stemming from allegations by a third child that he molested her.

 

Home | Assistance | Personal Experiences | Education | Press | Donations/Membership | Merchandise
Guestbook | Courage Awards | Newsletter | Contact Us | Affiliates | Sitemap
Copyright © 2003 by silentlambs.org. All rights reserved.