By Benjamin Bullard
The Cullman Times
Assistant prosecutors from the Alabama Attorney General’s office spent most of the week at the Cullman County courthouse, successfully prosecuting a sexual abuse charge against a former youth minister who’s already been convicted for a similar crime in Elmore County.
A Cullman jury found John A. Astorga, 38, of Titus, Ala. guilty of a single count of first degree sexual abuse, following a June indictment in Cullman County circuit court alleging he had sexual contact with a local victim who was less than 12 years old at the time of the offense.
The victim’s testimony was presented during Astorga’s trial this week. Astorga, a former minister at Bethel Assembly of God in Wetumpka, was found guilty in April on two counts of sexual abuse by an Elmore County jury. He also was indicted on three counts of first degree sexual abuse by a Madison County grand jury in late 2010.
Astorga is being held in the Cullman County detention center pending a sentencing hearing following Wednesday’s guilty verdict. The conviction carries a potential penalty in Cullman County of one year and one day to 10 years for crime, a Class C felony. He must register as a convicted sex offender and abide by the community notification requirements of state law — a stipulation already required by his previous conviction in Elmore County.
Astorga had been free on an appeal bond from the Elmore County conviction, for which he was sentenced to 36 months in jail for two counts of first degree sexual abuse, to run concurrently.
“We will urge the court to consider the predatory nature of this man’s crimes and the devastation caused to his child victims, and to impose a prison sentence,” said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange in a statement 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 AG’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 in the case.
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.