Geronimo Aguilar guilty of sexually assaulting two sisters in Texas
FORT WORTH — A Tarrant County jury on Wednesday convicted the former pastor of the Richmond Outreach Center of sexually assaulting two sisters in Fort Worth and Grapevine almost 20 years ago.
Geronimo Aguilar, 45, who had been free on bond, was immediately taken into custody.
He elected to have state District Judge Louis Sturns set his punishment. Sturns ordered a pre-sentencing report to be filed with him in 80 to 90 days.
The maximum sentence on a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child is life in prison.
Aguilar’s attorney said he would appeal the conviction.
In closing arguments Wednesday morning, prosecutors said Aguilar, a former minister in Fort Worth and Richmond, pursued a pattern of sexually abusing minors that started 19 years ago.
“He started off by rubbing up against her, by touching her, and then if he sensed that everything wasn’t going to go right, he’d step back and ask, ‘Is everything all right?’ He would just check to make sure that he wouldn’t get arrested,” prosecutor Sheila Wynn said.
The sisters testified last week. The older sister, using the pseudonym April Moore, said Aguilar repeatedly sexually assaulted her for two years starting in 1996 when she was 13 and he was 26. At the time, Aguilar lived with the sisters’ family in Fort Worth and Grapevine and was affiliated with the New Beginnings International Church in Fort Worth.
Defense attorney Thomas Pavlinic told jurors that after nearly two decades, the evidence that Aguilar might have used to defend himself against the charges no longer exists and people who might have testified on his behalf are no longer alive.
Aguilar’s late grandfather and his grandmother could have testified for the defense, Pavlinic said. Chad Everett White, who testified that he was April Moore’s boyfriend in 1997, said he was constantly at her Grapevine residence, yet did not know that Aguilar lived there, Pavlinic said.
A lot of time and testimony went into talking about Aguilar’s affairs, which he admitted to and took responsibility for, Pavlinic said. But those extramarital affairs have nothing to do with whether Aguilar sexually assaulted minors almost two decades ago, Pavlinic said.
“People are trying to recall things that happened almost 20 years ago,” Pavlinic said. “Presidents engage in extramarital affairs but that does not make them child molesters. You may not like his moral stance and you may not like what he did, but that’s no indication of his guilt.”
Prosecutor Eric Nickols said the sisters’ parents failed their daughters. The girl’s father even wrote a musical tribute for Aguilar after his daughters were abused, Nickols said.
The girls’ mother is in Tarrant County Jail awaiting trial on a charge of sexual assault of a child under 17. The Star-Telegram is not naming the mother because the newspaper typically does not identify sexual assault victims, and to print her name could identify her daughters. Moore said her mother, 56, is blind, has lupus and has long been a drug addict.
Nickols said that Aguilar is the consummate liar.
“He lied to his congregation, he lied to the court and he lied to you,” Nickols said to the jury. “He can turn on the tears when he wants to.”
Also, when Aguilar is attacked, he demonizes and then attacks his attackers, Nickols said. When he is caught, Aguilar cries, he ask for mercy and then begs his accusers not to tell anyone, Nickols said.
Aguilar left North Texas in 2001 and moved to Richmond, where he founded the Richmond Outreach Center, or the ROC, a church he began in a warehouse with 19 members which grew to serve 10,000 visitors a week.
“It’s the ROC playbook,” Nickols said. “When he gets caught he acts repentant and if you go public, the attack is coming. This is how it goes when you come against a machine like the ROC.”
Aguilar relinquished his position as senior ROC pastor in 2013.