Visalia -- A 38-year-old Visalia man who was a leader in a local Jehovah's Witness congregation may face up to 16 years in prison on charges of sexually molesting a 12-year-old congregation member. Louis Anguiano served until last year as an elder at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses at 5310 Caldwell Ave. He is accused of continuous sexual abuse, over a two-year period, of a girl who attended the same congregation.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 7, when a judge will determine whether there is enough evidence for Anguiano to stand trial. Anguiano is free on $50,000 bail.
Anguiano's defense attorney, Jim Wilson of Visalia, proclaimed his client's innocence Wednesday but wouldn't comment further about the case.
According to Tulare County Superior Court records, Anguiano had known the victim's family for about six years and allegedly began molesting the girl about two years ago when she was 10.
"Everything began in a playful manner. ... Anguiano would grab her, tickle her and slap her on the bottom," a police report states. "Over a period of time, this playfulness began to become more uncomfortable to her. ..."
The first incident of alleged abuse occurred in the summer of 2001, when the girl and Anguiano were going to Wal-Mart, police reports state. The girl said the two were alone when he offered her money and reached over with his hand, attempting to place a $5 bill in her crotch.
The girl said Anguiano constantly showered her with gifts, including see-through underwear and cash.
Another time, records state, Anguiano allegedly asked the girl to shower with him, but she refused. Soon after, Anguiano began to brush the girl's hair and rubbed up against her.
"She could feel his pelvis/crotch bumping into her buttocks from behind," according to a police report. "The girl said she believes that Anguiano's motives are sexual and that is why she is uncomfortable with his touching, pestering and constant photographing."
The girl told detectives that the last incident happened in January 2002 while she played on a computer at her home. Anguiano was visiting the family and entered the girl's room, telling her he wanted to dance, He began dancing in front of her, reports state, and "he picked her from the chair and began holding her as if he wanted to dance."
The girl told detectives she kicked Anguiano in the groin. Anguiano then allegedly asked her, "How would you like me to do that to you?" She said Anguiano grabbed her by her arms, forced her into a corner "and grabbed her crotch area ... squeezing," reports state.
Anguiano was arrested Dec. 6 and booked into the Tulare County Main Jail. He was released on bail a few hours later.
Court documents state that Anguiano admitted to detectives that he had slapped the girl's bottom on occasion in a playful manner, but said he didn't know if it was the right thing to do.
A police report states that Anguiano admitted to buying the girl underwear as a gag and denied touching the girl's privates, but later told detectives that he had a problem and shouldn't have done certain things.
"[Anguiano] ultimately indicated that what he had done was wrong and that it was his lustful desire for [the girl] that caused him to have this problem," records state. A detective noted that Anguiano went back and forth in his statements from innocent touching to touching that was not appropriate in any way.
After the last incident, the girl told her mother, and the family attempted to keep Anguiano from coming to the home. The girl and her family spoke to the congregation's elders about the alleged incidents and filed a complaint against Anguiano.
One congregation elder declined Wednesday to discuss the case; other congregation officials could not be reached for comment.
Some of the elders contacted Child Protective Services in March 2002, according to court documents. Elders conducted their own investigation, removed Anguiano as an elder and sent a report to Watchtower Bible and Tract Society personnel in New York.
In court records, one elder told detectives that the girl said she thought Anguiano was going to murder her, and that "Anguiano also was someone that she did not want to be alone with."