Former Minister of Youth pleads guilty to pedophilia case in Prattville
PRATTVILLE – A former youth minister pleaded guilty to pedophilia charges on Thursday mid-trial in Prattville, but only after a series of surprising twists and turns.
Rudolfo Luna Chavez, 53, of the 100 block of Overlook Drive Prattville, was originally charged with sexual abuse, as well as inciting a child to immoral purposes, court records show. He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor of sexual abuse after the state dropped the tantalizing childish charge and agreed to drop the sexual abuse charges in a related case with another victim.
Both victims were teenagers under the age of 16 and belonged to the youth group. Chavez was the youth minister at Open Acres Baptist Church in Montgomery. The abuse occurred at his home in Prattville in June 2018.
He argued before circuit judge Bill Lewis and admitted in open court that he subjected the victim to sexual interference. Sexual abuse covers inappropriate touching. The agreement recommended a six-month sentence in Autauga Metropolitan Jail, imposed by Lewis.
After his release, Chavez will have to register as a sex offender.
“Considering the way the trial unfolded, we are happy with this plea agreement,” Deputy Chief District Attorney CJ Robinson said. “Chavez admitted in open court that he subjected the victim to sexual interference. And he will be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life.”
Thursday’s trial took a turn when defense attorney Matt Williams alleged in his opening statement to the jury that the victim had brought charges against Chavez in retaliation for his counseling her because she had sent pictures of her naked to a teenager. The boy was also a member of the youth group and was under 16 at the time.
The boy told Chavez about the photos, Williams told the eight-male and six-female jury.
During a break, Deputy Prosecutors Josh Cochran and Sarah Speaks walked into a courtroom across the hall and spoke with the victim. Authorities later confirmed that the victim admitted to sending the photos.
The state called Scott Baxley, the Prattville Police investigator who handled the case, and then Emily Hutchison, the forensic investigator who spoke with the victim to testify.
The court suspended before the victim was called to the stand and Lewis took the unprecedented step of appointing a defense lawyer for the victim, who is now 18. It was a prolonged break and plea negotiations began.
Robinson said after accepting the plea that the victim would likely have been “eviscerated” on the stand during cross-examination.
“Three things could have happened on the cross,” he said. “She could have admitted producing child pornography and distributing child pornography, class A and B crimes respectively, while a minor. She could have invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, this that would have killed her credibility with the jury or she could have perjured herself by saying that she hadn’t sent the photos after confessing to us just an hour before she had sent the photos.
“The plea was about the best thing that could have happened given the existence of evidence we were not aware of before the trial,” he said.
Robinson said it was “unlikely” that the state would seek to indict the victim with child pornography.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Marty Roney at [email protected]