McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 23, 2013

Charge against ex-megachurch employee stands

JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS
Associated Press

TULSA —  

A Tulsa judge refused Tuesday to dismiss the case against a man charged with making a lewd proposal to a 14-year-old girl he met when he worked as a janitor at an Oklahoma megachurch.

District Judge William Kellough rejected an argument by 23-year-old Israel Castillo's attorney that his client did not know the child was under age when he is alleged to have sent explicit Facebook messages to her.

Defense attorney Hugh Hood said state law requires that a person charged with making a lewd proposal "knowingly and intentionally" realized a victim is a child.

"That is exactly wrong to ignore (that)," Hood argued. "You can't hold someone liable for breaking the law when they have no way of knowing they are breaking the law."

But Sarah McAmis, director of the Crimes Against Children Division at the district attorney's office, countered that Castillo had known the girl for at least two years and met her in person through a youth program at the 17,000-member Victory Christian Center in south Tulsa.

Both Hood and McAmis declined to comment on the case after the hearing.

Castillo has pleaded not guilty and has been free on bail since September. If convicted, he could face 20 years in prison.

His arraignment on the felony count is scheduled for Feb. 1. A second charge of using a computer to commit a sex crime was dismissed last fall by another judge because both counts involved the same evidence.

Another former Victory employee, Chris Denman, 20, was sentenced last month to 55 years in prison after pleading guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl in a church stairwell.

Five church employees — including the son and daughter-in-law of Victory co-founder and senior pastor Sharon Daugherty — have been accused of waiting two weeks to report the rape. They have each pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to report the abuse in a timely manner.

John and Charica Daugherty are scheduled for hearings Friday; the three others are scheduled for hearings next month.