Accused Child Molester Heads to Preliminary Hearing

By Karen Wilkinson
The Eureka Reporter

July 16, 2008

Andrew Belant, accused of child molestation, is headed for a preliminary hearing again, after 26 charges filed against him were dropped Tuesday and a new complaint alleging 22 counts was filed by the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office.

At what was scheduled to be a hearing on Attorney Patrik Griego’s motion to dismiss six of the 26 charges, Belant instead pleaded not guilty to each new felony charge and was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 7.

The 22 charges allege 11 counts of lewd or lascivious acts, five counts of oral copulation upon a child under 14 and six counts of participating in oral copulation with a child under 14. The dismissed complaint alleged 16 counts of lewd or lascivious acts, eight counts of oral copulation upon a child under 14 and one count of misdemeanor destroying evidence. The four alleged male victims are between 9 and 13 years old, and no new victims were alleged in the new complaint.

Belant, 25, knew the alleged victims through his role as a junior youth pastor at the Eureka First Presbyterian Church and from local schools like Lafayette Elementary School and Jacoby Creek Elementary School. He was arrested March 1 and has been in the Humboldt County jail since on $300,000 bail.

Before his case was called Tuesday, Belant sat in the back of the jury box clad in an orange jumpsuit, with his eyes straight ahead. He wore glasses, has short brown hair, a trimmed mustache and beard and was gripping a blue folder.

Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos originally handled the case, but has since handed it over to Deputy District Attorney Kelly Neel, who specializes in prosecuting child sexual abuse cases and was on maternity leave at the time. Gallegos said his office received more information from follow-up investigations and so wrote and filed a new complaint.

At Belant’s April preliminary hearing, Judge Marilyn Miles threw out a charge of forcible rape and reduced three counts of oral copulation to lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under 14. She said evidence didn’t support the felony sexual assault complaints on the dates alleged in the complaint.

Gallegos said at the time that some of the children’s testimony was contradictory and that the transcripts from their interviews may be inaccurate.

Neither Griego or Neel wanted to comment on the case.

(Karen Wilkinson can be reached at or at 707-269-7441.)


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