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Ex-pastor pleads guilty in sex case

A former Seminole minister pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he sexually assaulted a teenage boy in Wisconsin more than 20 years ago, but some members of his congregation still believe he is innocent.

At a hearing in Barron, Wis., Angel Toro, 57, acknowledged the charges and said that the assault was a mistake and an isolated incident, according to the Leader-Telegram in Wisconsin. As Toro apologized, the now 38-year-old victim walked out of the courtroom.

Toro, who resigned from a Seminole church in 2007, will serve 18 months in jail, receive three years of probation and be registered nationally as a sex offender, according to the Leader-Telegram.

Toro was pastor at First United Methodist Church in Rice Lake, Wis., in 1987, when he assaulted the teenager at the church, authorities say.

Douglas Guillen told authorities that Toro bought beer and sexually assaulted him several times while he was 17 and working odd jobs for the church. The St. Petersburg Times usually does not identify victims of sex assault, but Guillen agreed to be named.

Guillen, now a construction superintendent living in Broward County, revealed the story to his family after he started having psychological problems a few years ago, said his mother-in-law, Betty Castillo.

"We're all extremely happy over this. I just wish he'd gotten more time," said Castillo, 63, who lives in Sunrise. "He almost destroyed this family."

Toro, the former pastor of Chapel on the Hill United Church of Christ in Seminole, originally faced four felony sexual assault charges and one charge of enticing a child for immoral purposes. The prosecution knocked the sex assault charges to misdemeanors in exchange for a guilty plea.

Toro resigned as leader of the Seminole church about the same time Wisconsin prosecutors filed charges after growing the congregation of about 30 people to more than 400.

"We will support him and hope that he can come through this turmoil in good shape because he's a good man," said Jeanne Pugh, 84, who is a member of the congregation Toro used to lead. "It's just a tragedy."

He has not been charged with any wrongdoing in Pinellas County.

Stephanie Garry can be reached at sgarry@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2374.

Ex-pastor pleads guilty in sex case 07/15/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 21, 2008 5:56pm]
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