Former Richmond megachurch pastor Geronimo Aguilar, lauded for founding and leading the Richmond Outreach Center, is on trial this week in Fort Worth, Texas, accused of assaulting two underage girls.
Two years ago in June, Aguilar resigned from the church, which is working to regroup under the name Celebration Church and Outreach Ministry. Aguilar faces charges that he sexually assaulted two sisters who were underage in the 1990s while serving as their youth pastor and living with their family.
Prosecutors presented their case last week, and Aguilar took the stand Monday in his defense. Style asked Kerri O’Brien of 8News, who’s been the only Richmond reporter in the courtroom, to share some of the most striking moments that emerged:
1. Journalist subpoenaed. In a shocking move, an hour into covering jury selection, I’m called out of court and served a subpoena to be a witness for the defense. It appears to be ploy by Geronimo Aguilar’s attorneys to limit media coverage of the trial and keep me out of the courtroom. Lawyers for my station file a motion to quash the subpoena, which is successful, and I return to work.
2. The alleged sex began at 13. The first alleged victim told the jury she clearly recalls the first time she had sex with her Texas church youth pastor, Aguilar. She testifies that it happened Halloween night in 1996, when she was 13. She says the sex continued for a couple of years and that the two had intercourse in multiple locations at the church in Fort Worth — in the church bathroom, the church van and the pastor’s office. She says she never told anyone at the time, and liked the attention from such a powerful and important man.
3. Pastor allegedly played strip poker with a child. The second alleged victim testifies that she recalls lying on a king-sized bed with Aguilar, playing strip poker at the age of 12. She says that once she got down to her underwear, she tried to cover herself with a bed sheet.
4. Affairs at the ROC. Accusations of multiple affairs with ROC parishioners come to light. Two women testify to affairs with Aguilar, who is married. His lawyers don’t deny it, and mention a third affair that he had with a personal assistant. During cross-examination, Aguilar’s defense team portrays the parishioners testifying as scorned women seeking revenge.
5. The former pastor will testify. Aguilar has maintained that he is innocent and that he will take the stand. His attorneys tell the jury during opening remarks that Aguilar will testify on his own behalf.
To read updates on the trial in Fort Worth from WRIC 8 News investigative reporter Kerri O’Brien, visit wric.com.