The trial of 59-year-old former Evangelical pastor Ronald Lee Pyles Jr continues in Mahoning County OH. Testimony was heard on January 7 and 8 before Judge James C. Evans of the Common Pleas Court of the Ohio jurisdiction. Pyles waived the right to a jury trial on charges of rape and gross sexual imposition upon a mentally-challenged young woman. Prosecutors say that the former pastor of Victory Harvest Ministry in North Jackson OH the former pastor committed various sex crimes at the church between October 2010 and March 2011. Victory Harvest Ministry serves primarily alcohol- and drug-addicted people while it also provides temporary shelter to homeless people.

Pyles’ accuser is a young handicapped woman who was living at a shelter sponsored by Pyles’ church. The victim took the stand on January 7 but declined to be videotaped or recorded.  The woman testified that Pyles touched her inappropriately and performed sexual acts on her upon several occasions. She was 19 years old at the time. Witnesses supporting the prosecution included case workers from a local mental retardation agency and children’s services. One case worker testified that the victim very much admired Pyles and looked upon him as a paternal figure. The witness said that the woman is now very ashamed of the matter.

A therapist who testified in the case said that the victim trusted Pyles and did not want to bring opprobrium upon him or his church."And I think she wanted to protect people she thought were protecting her," the therapist said.

“Ronald Pyles is a sick and perverse individual, who sexually abused a mentally disabled 19-year-old girl during a time when he was entrusted with her care,” said Assistant County Prosecutor Natasha Frenchko.

The main witness for the defense was Pyles himself. “This young lady has been manipulated into this testimony,” which emerged three months after her last contact with anyone from the church, said defense counsel David Gerchak to the court.  "Based on the testimony I've heard here today, I need to testify about the truth as far as I'm concerned,“ said the former pastor to the judge. Pyles spoke to the court about his former life before the trial was adjourned. 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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