A former Virginia megachurch pastor testified Tuesday that he once told a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair that the Almighty understood the weakness of their flesh.
“God knows we are sinners,” Geronimo Aguilar said he told his assistant, Jammie Chasteen, during their eight- to 10-year relationship.
Aguilar also acknowledged having numerous other sexual liaisons while he was married.
“When the affairs started, I passed the marriage-counseling duties onto another pastor,” Aguilar said.
But Aguilar staunchly denied that he ever had sex with underage girls.
“Never, never,” Aguilar said. “I have never been accused of having sex with a child in my life.”
Aguilar, 45, took the stand in his own defense Tuesday. He is on trial on two counts of sexual assault of a child.
This week, two sisters testified that Aguilar repeatedly sexually assaulted them when they were 13 and 11 and were sharing residences in Fort Worth and Grapevine in the mid-1990s.
Aguilar said his accusers, who are now women, their boyfriends, who are now men, and a pastor who testified that he saw signs that Aguilar was having sex with children were making up stories or were mistaken.
Aguilar said he has no idea why the witnesses decided to lie. Out of the blue about five years ago, he said, the family that is now accusing him asked him for money and he sent it about $1,300.
“I know desperate people do desperate things,” Aguilar said.
Prosecutor Eric Nickols said it is too late for the family to bring a lawsuit, so money cannot be a motive.
“You lied about your affairs to your church, to your wife and to your mistresses,” Nickols said. “Why do you think this jury should believe you now?”
‘Like a failure’
Aguilar said he bought Chasteen an engagement ring, told her that he loved her and ultimately proposed marriage while he was married.
His wife, Samantha Aguilar, the mother of their three children, confronted him about Chasteen more than once, Aguilar said. He was always able to get her to back away from her suspicions, Aguilar said.
“But I don’t think I was ever able to convince her,” Aguilar testified.
Aguilar described his ministerial work as worthy. He said he marshaled enough resources to build the Richmond Outreach Center in one of the poorest, most dangerous parts of Virginia and reached out to thousands of people who would normally never see the inside of a church.
Aguilar said he and the people around him built an institution that fed and clothed the poor while giving shelter to the weak and infirm.
Part of him felt guilty about deceiving his wife, church members, his staff and his children, Aguilar said.
His attorney, Thomas Pavlinic, asked Aguilar how being caught in multiple affairs made him feel.
“Like a failure,” he replied.
Aguilar admitted that he had an affair with the mother of a young woman he had sex with and testified that the family moved to another state when that became public knowledge. Aguilar also said he had sex with one of the aunts in the family. Aguilar said that the father and husband in that family eventually forgave him and that the family returned to Richmond to resume its work in the church.
“Yes, I was a hypocrite,” Aguilar said.
The maximum sentence on a charge of sexual assault of a child is life in prison. Aguilar’s 2014 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, each with a maximum sentence of 20 years.
The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday in state District Judge Louis Sturns’ court. Prosecutors Nickols and Sheila Wynn are presenting the state’s case. Aguilar is defended by Pavlinic and Heather Barbieri.
Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752