A woman who said she was repeatedly raped by a charismatic pastor more than 18 years ago hesitated Tuesday as she pointed at the accused.
She cringed from the witness stand while she described an item of his clothing.
Testifying under the pseudonym April Moore, the 32-year-old woman said Geronimo Aguilar first noticed her when she was 11 or 12 and living in California.
“He got me a sweatshirt with a gorilla or a monkey on it,” Moore testified. “He was the cool guy so getting a gift from him was a big deal.”
Aguilar, now 45, is the former music minister of a church in Fort Worth and former pastor of a megachurch in Richmond, Va.
He was indicted by a Tarrant County grand jury in 2014 on two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. He is accused of sexually assaulting Moore and her younger sister in the mid-1990s.
Moore testified that she grew up with Aguilar in communal homes owned by the Set Free Church in Anaheim, Calif., pastored by his father, Phil Aguilar.
Moore said her mother was addicted to drugs, and she and her two sisters had been removed from her care. Moore testified that the Set Free Church helped her mother reunite with her daughters. After her mother remarried, they were among several families living in church-sponsored homes as the adults tried to break drug addictions.
Prosecutor Eric Nickols asked Moore whether her parents objected to having a grown man sleep with their three young daughters, as Aguilar often did. Moore said they did not seem to mind.
“I think my parents trusted him,” Moore said.
In 1995, Aguilar moved to Fort Worth, where he began a music ministry at New Beginnings Church, Moore testified. Moore said her family soon followed Aguilar to Fort Worth to help with the ministry.
Aguilar is accused of having sex in Fort Worth with Moore and a younger sister.
The first time Moore and Aguilar had sex was on Halloween night, after a party at New Beginnings Church in Fort Worth, Moore told the jury. She was 13.
Moore said Aguilar was married, but his wife took at least two monthlong trips to California. Her parents did not enroll Moore in school during that time, so the opportunities for Moore and Aguilar to be together were plentiful. Aguilar wanted to keep her with him all the time, and that was especially true after they started having sex, Moore said.
“We were having sex in a lot of different places,” Moore testified. “We were having sex in the pastor’s office, in the church bathroom, in parking lots, in motels, on the church bus.”
But a few months after he arrived in Fort Worth, Aguilar was asked to leave the church, Moore said. Moore testified that she believed someone saw something and the families just packed up and moved to Grapevine.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, a New Beginnings member saw Aguilar kissing Moore.
Aguilar moved to Virginia in the late 1990s and founded the Richmond Outreach Center in 2003. Church leaders there fired him in 2014.
Before 2007, Moore said, she never reported the sexual abuse to any authority or relative, including her parents.
During opening arguments, Thomas Pavlinic, Aguilar’s attorney, said the church Aguilar started in Richmond had become an international success by 2006. Pavlinic said that his client is married to a rich woman and that it was only after Aguilar began to enjoy financial success that the reports of sexual impropriety gained traction.
“This is a case about trying to defend yourself from a 19-year-old accusation,” Pavlinic said. “My client will take the witness stand, and I ask you not to make up your minds until you hear all of the facts.”
If convicted on two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, Aguilar faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The indictment also includes three counts of sexual assault of a child under 17 and three counts of indecency with a child, all second-degree felonies and each with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752