Possible Plea Deal for Pastor Accused of Molestation

January 12, 2006

SALINAS, Calif. -- A Salinas pastor accused of molesting young girls could be close to reaching a plea bargain.

Donald Domelle, 65, a pastor at the Salinas Baptist Temple is accused of molesting two young girls. Prosecutors have filed more than 60 charges against him. And on Thursday, both sides announced they are hoping to settle the case before it goes to trial.

Domelle was arrested last month after a 16-year-old parishioner of his church accused him of sexually molesting her. Just last week, prosecutors charged him with molesting another girl.

Outside the courtroom Thursday, the prosecution and defense said they were looking to avoid a trial.

"All of these counts could potentially expose the defendant to hundreds of years if he were to be convicted on all the counts," said defense attorney John Coniglio.

"A case as significant as this is ... early resolution, I think, is always better for the healing process of that community," said prosecutor Gary Thelander.

Thelander said the alleged victims have been cooperating in the case, but he added it would be hard for them to testify. A plea bargain would keep them off the witness stand.

Details of a possible plea bargain could emerge at Domelle's next court hearing, which is scheduled for Jan. 19.

Domelle remains behind bars. His bail has been set at $1.5 million.


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