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April 3, 2013

Former youth minister sentenced to 10 years in sex abuse case

CULLMAN — A former Wetumpka church youth minister has been sentenced to the maximum 10 years imprisonment for first-degree sexual abuse of a child in Cullman County Circuit Court.

John A. Astorga, 38, of Titus, Ala., was sentenced Wednesday by Cullman County Circuit Judge Greg Nicholas.

A Cullman County jury found Astorga guilty of a single count of first-degree sexual abuse in December 2012. He was indicted in June 2012. The allegation was that Astorga had sexual contact with a local victim who was less than 12 years old at the time of the offense.

Before the Cullman County indictment, the former minister at Bethel Assembly of God in Wetumpka was found guilty in April 2012 on two counts of sexual abuse by an Elmore County jury. He was also indicted on three counts of first-degree sexual abuse by a Madison County grand jury in 2010.

Astorga had been held in the Cullman County detention center since his conviction here last year. Judge Nicholas had a sentencing guideline for the Class C felony to sentence Astorga from one year and one day to 10 years in prison. The judge chose the maximum sentence.

The former minister was free from Elmore County on an appeal bond when he was charged in Cullman County.

State Attorney General Luther Strange and his staff prosecuted the case in Cullman County. At the time of Astorga’s conviction locally, Strange urged the court to impose the prison sentence on the minister.

 “I am pleased that the court considered the predatory nature of this man’s crimes and the devastation caused to his child victims, and thus imposed the maximum available prison sentence,” Attorney General Strange stated in a news release Wednesday. “We are deeply concerned about the damage that he has done, and want to ensure that he does not have the opportunity to continue to prey upon innocent children.”

The cases were prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Criminal Trials Division. Strange commended those involved, noting in particular Assistant Attorneys General Andrew Arrington and John Hensley, special agents of his Investigations Division, and Victim Service Officer Doris Hancock. He also thanked the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office, the Cullman County District Attorney’s Office, and the Cullman County Child Advocacy Center, for assistance.

David Palmer may be contacted at dpalmer@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 213.

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