|Pastor Pleads Guilty to Selling Drugs at Church, Having Stolen Gun
By Will Bigham
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
January 4, 2010
RIVERSIDE - Home Gardens pastor Anthony Garduno pleaded guilty Monday to four felonies and a misdemeanor for allegedly selling drugs out of his church and keeping a stolen pistol.
Garduno, 51, a former Roman Catholic priest, was arrested last week after Riverside County sheriff's investigators found methamphetamine and the pistol during a search of Garduno's Magnolia Avenue church, Our Lady of Tepeyac, according to Riverside County sheriff's officials.
In his initial court appearance last week, Garduno pleaded not guilty to the charges.
But on Monday in Riverside Superior Court, Garduno opted to change his pleas.
His guilty pleas were not made as part of a negotiated plea bargain with prosecutors, and there is no sentencing recommendation. A judge will determine Garduno's sentence, said John Hall, spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.
"It was an open plea to the court," Hall said. "There was no plea agreement."
Garduno, whose bail remains set at $250,000, is scheduled to be sentenced March 1. He faces a maximum sentence of four years and four months in state prison, Hall said.
Sheriff's investigators began scrutinizing Garduno's activities after a former parishioner contacted authorities last month and accused Garduno of sexually assaulting him four years ago, when the alleged victim was 17.
Investigators said last week that they discovered evidence during their search of Garduno's
church that the pastor potentially had numerous additional molestation victims.
Prosecutors have not charged Garduno with sexual assault, though a sheriff's spokesman said last week that the allegations remain under investigation.
Garduno is a bishop in the Old Catholic Church, according to a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino.
The Old Catholic Church is a small demonination that split with the Roman Catholic Church in the 1870s.
Gardun left the Roman Catholic Church about a decade ago amid allegations that he tried to initiate sexual contact with a man in his church, according to the diocese.
In September, Garduno was shot multiple times during a robbery attempt at his church. Five local men accused in the robbery, who also allegedly held up five local diners the night of Garduno's shooting, were scheduled to stand trial Monday, but the trial date was postponed to March 8.
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