Minister Takes Stand in Molestation Trial
By Mike Grant
April 7, 2016
A minister accused of abusing a young member of his church presented his tearful version of the events that led to his arrest. Armando Bruno Morales, 56, of Washington is on trial on two counts of Class A felony child molesting and two counts of Class C felony child molesting in Daviess Superior Court.
The second day of testimony opened with Washington Detective Daniel Christie on the stand. Christie had testified about his investigation into the case that reportedly began in 2008 when the victim was 8 years old.
During cross examination by the defense a 30-minute recording of a interview Christie conducted with the boy who was the alleged victim in the case was presented. During that interview the boy again detailed events surrounding his abuse.
"I was scared," the boy said during the interview. "He would come to my bed at night and would do it to me."
The boy told investigators after the family confronted the defendant a second time that they left the church.
"Armando was telling the brothers in the church that I provoked this," said the boy. "That I would come to him. He is a very mean person. He would say mean things to my parents about me."
After Detective Christie stepped down, Judge Dean Sobecki explained to the jurors that the additional interview was presented so that they could compare it to the boy's testimony on Wednesday and the statement he made to police.
At that point, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Donita Farr rested the state's case.
Before beginning the defense presentation attorney Michael Chestnut asked the court for a directed verdict.
"The state has not proven its case on the A felonies," said Chestnut. "We ask for a not guilty on the A felonies and guilty on the C felonies that he has admitted to."
Farr objected to the directed verdict and asked that the case go on. Judge Sobecki denied Chestnut's motion.
At that point the defendant was called to the stand. Through an interpreter, Morales said he was originally from Guatemala and came to the United States in 2003. He said he was very familiar with the victim's family and had known them since 2006 when they began to start a church together.
"I lived with them," said Morales. "We started a church together. I consider the father as my spiritual son. We were close. I was a mentor, pastor, he was my right hand at the church. I was very sorry to have lost the friendship that was so beautiful."
The boy originally accused Morales of abusing him in 2008. After being confronted by the boy's father Morales denied the events. He also denied abusing the child in 2008 during his interview with police and on the stand. "I did not do that, did not touch him in a sexual way," he said. "He did not touch me in a sexual way."
He told the boy's father the child was possessed by the devil. "I believe that is what happened," said Morales on the stand. "I have studied some about that. Biblically, it has been proven diabolical identities can produce evil acts. I told his father he had to pray for the boy."
Morales says he maintained a close relationship with the victim's family after that working together in a new church. The family moved, but he continued to spend the night with them and spend time as a babysitter in the home. He said that closeness continued until the father confronted him about more allegations from the son.
"The way I touched the boy is a reality," said Morales. "It was like I told the detective. I had done that one time. I never, never did do damage to the boy. I believe there was a moment I was touching him in the area over his pants and he was touching me over my pants."
Morales admitted to sending text messages to the family asking for forgiveness.
"When you have a very close relationship with a family and you let your friend down you ask for forgiveness for what was done," he said. "I am a man of moral principals. In my soul I felt I had damaged this family. I asked for forgiveness in many ways because I had damaged the feelings of this boy, this family."
Wiping away tears Morales told the jury his fate is in their hands.
"I don't have any way to prove it," he said with his voice breaking. "It is in your hands, in God's hands. My work has not been to hurt people, it has been to help people in Washington."
The testimony by prosecution witnesses put the number of alleged abuse incidents at more than two dozen, some involving fondling, some involving much more invasive conduct. While on the stand Morales admitted to a single incident.
"Do you expect the jury to believe that there was only one event between you and the victim?" asked Farr repeatedly on cross-examination.
"Yes, I touched him and I explained it," Morales replied.
After Morales' testimony, the defense also rested its case. Attorneys for both sides spent the rest of Thursday afternoon working on jury instructions.
Closing arguments are set for Friday morning.