Cleared Deacon Says He Forgives Accusers
By Greg Cunningham
December 9, 2003
HEREFORD - After a year and a half of accusations, distrustful stares and legal maneuvering, anyone could forgive Jessie Guerrero for feeling angry.
Yet only hours after being cleared of three molestation charges by a jury Monday, the former deacon said his thoughts were dominated by feelings of gratitude and forgiveness.
"It's been a very, very long journey," Guerrero said. "I'm just grateful to God, that this nightmare is over. I'm also very grateful for all the support of my family and all my friends who believe in me."
Coming into the last day of his trial Monday, Guerrero was facing three charges of indecency with a child, based on the accusations of three separate children who said he touched them while he was serving as a deacon in Hereford.
Guerrero's trial had lasted for more than a week, with the state calling numerous witnesses, including the three accusers, and the defense calling numerous character witnesses.
Once given the case, however, the jury took less than an hour to find Guerrero innocent on all three charges, said assistant district attorney Chris Strowd.
Strowd seemed bewildered as to why the jury cleared Guerrero, saying he would have to talk to individual jury members to determine what happened.
"I respect the jury's verdict," Strowd said. "I'm disappointed, but that's their job to make that decision."
Guerrero's defense attorney, William Kelly, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Strowd said the nature of the allegations, which, if true, would have left no physical evidence, made it difficult to prove the accusations.
"In a touching case, it's his word against theirs," Strowd said. "He has a good reputation in the community, and we had to overcome that."
Strowd said the families of the victims were shocked by the verdict.
Guerrero said he also had thoughts for the children and their families, but his thoughts ran to forgiveness.
"I am not angry at all," Guerrero said. "I forgave them the minute that they did this to me. As Christians, we know that we have to forgive.
"Our Lord Jesus Christ, he was accused and he was crucified because of what the people did to him. We just have to say forgive them Lord for they know not what they do, the same words our Lord Jesus Christ said."
Now that he has been cleared, Guerrero said he would like to return to his service in the church, a decision which will be up to the bishop. Cathy Lexa, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Amarillo, said she did yet not know what process would be used to evaluate Guerrero's status.
He was placed on administrative leave immediately after he was charged.
Regardless of the church's decision, Guerrero said he will be working to rehabilitate his reputation in the community and to undo the damage he has suffered.
"My heart goes to all victims who have at one time or another been sexually or physically or verbally abused," Guerrero said. "But my heart also goes to all those persons who have been falsely accused, because I know how they feel. I have felt what they went through."
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