HONOLULU (KHNL) - Calling him a smooth operator and a scam artist, prosecutors on Monday sought a 10-year prison sentence for a former Windward Oahu minister convicted of sexually assaulting a child.
From spiritual leader to sexual predator. Prosecutors say Manuel Taboada committed an incredible betrayal to his entire ministry.
"The defendant's conduct was callous and it was cruel," Thalia Murphy, deputy prosecutor, said. "The defendant stood in a position of trust and authority."
The 57-year-old pleaded guilty to eight counts of sex assault on a girl who lived in his Back to the Cross Ministry in Kaneohe. Prosecutors describe his congregation as "cult-like."
"The defendant tried to quote scripture to justify what he did," Murphy said. "He promised to the child in this case that she could take over leadership of the ministry."
The now 22-year-old victim is in the courtroom for sentencing. Because it is a sex crime, we are not identifying her.
"Whatever happened between the two people never, ever should have happened," Michael Green, defense attorney, said. "And I hope that, as the years go by, that she's able to regain some self-worth."
When given a chance to address the court and his young victim, Taboada declines.
"It's your personal decision whether you wish to make a statement," Richard Pollack, Circuit judge, said.
"No, your honor," the convicted sex offender responded.
"In cases like this, there's very little that someone can say that helps anyone," Green said after the hearing. "I mean, I think people take sorry the wrong way and say, you know, who's he kidding."
The judge hands down a 10-year prison term. Taboada must register as a convicted sex offender for the rest of his life.
"It's an outrage that Manuel Taboada was the leader of this ministry," Murphy said.