Joe Conner Pleads Not Guilty to Child Molestation Charges
By Karina Lopez
Imperial Valley Press
October 24, 2013
Joe Conner, a local pastor and Imperial Valley native, pleaded not guilty to multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of child molestation during an arraignment Wednesday afternoon at the Brawley Superior Court.
The Imperial County District Attorney’s Office filed the complaint last week. The complaint included five misdemeanor counts of child molestation, two felony counts of lewd or lascivious acts upon a child younger than 14 and one felony count of sexual battery by restraint. The complaint was filed by the District Attorney’s Office following a months-long investigation by the El Centro Police Department.
The three felony counts are alleged to have occurred as early as December 2004 and as late as December 2011, according to the complaint. The five misdemeanors were alleged to have occurred as early as August 2009 and as late as May 2013.
At the time of the alleged abuse, the two complaining female witnesses were minors, and reportedly one of them is still under the age of 18.
Conner appeared in court Wednesday for the first time on the eight counts. His defense attorney, Joseph Camarata of Temecula, made the argument that due to Conner’s ties to the community and the fact that he does not have a criminal record, he should be released on his own recognizance.
Conner is on administrative leave from his position as head coach of the Southwest High School varsity football team and his job at Naval Air Facility El Centro, where he is in charge of athletic programs in the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department, noted Camarata.
Conner was also pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Brawley and was supported by dozens of members of his congregation and numerous family members during the arraignment and outside of Brawley Superior Court.
Marco Nunez, deputy district attorney, argued because three of the charges against Conner are felony counts, the 38-year-old should be required to post bail of $100,000.
Presiding Superior Court Judge Brooks Anderholt decided Conner could be released on his own recognizance providing he obeys all laws, appears in court when he is ordered to do so and has no contact with the two alleged victims.
Conner is set to be back in court for a preliminary hearing setting on Nov. 25.
Staff Writer Karina Lopez can be reached at 760-337-3439 or firstname.lastname@example.org