SACRAMENTO, Calif. (ABP) – A California jury deliberated nearly four days before finding an American Baptist pastor guilty on 11 of 12 child molestation charges Dec. 8.
Tommy Gene Daniels, 49, faces sentencing Jan. 13 for crimes involving five girls ages 5-8 alleged to have occurred between 2003 and 2005. Daniels, arrested a year ago, remains listed as pastor of First Baptist Church in Rio Linda, Calif., a congregation affiliated with Growing Healthy Churches, formerly known as American Baptist Churches of the West.
All five girls testified that the molestations took place at Daniels’ home in Citrus Heights, Calif. One of the girls had been going to the residence for day care. The other four were foster children placed there by adoptive parents who found them too difficult to handle.
Daniels’ wife, Brenda, testified that all five of the girls had a propensity to lie. She said she distrusted them so much that when one told her she was being sexually abused she didn’t bother to report it to the police. She said if she had believed her husband was capable of child abuse she likely would have left him.
In the end the Sacramento Superior Court jury had to decide whether to believe the word of a preacher or that five girls — two of them sisters — colluded to falsely accuse him.
According to reports of the trial by the Sacramento Bee, an expert witness testified for the prosecution that rate of false accusations of sexual abuse reported to law enforcement stands somewhere between 1 percent and 6 percent.
Deputy District Attorney Kimberly Macy said in her closing argument that Daniels targeted the girls because he knew no one would believe their word against his.
Daniels' lawyer, Michael Chastaine, said he was "incredibly disappointed" by the verdict and intends to appeal the decision.
Daniels faces 15 years to life in prison on each count, meaning he is looking at a sentence of 165 years to life.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.