23 Oct 2008

Ex-pastor gets concurrent life terms in child sex case

The Advocate - Louisiana
October 22, 2008

by Debra Lemoine | Advocate Florida parishes bureau

AMITE — A former pastor will serve four concurrent life sentences for raping his two sons, both of whom pleaded with the judge not to imprison their father for life during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing in the 21st Judicial District Court in Amite.

Louis D. Lamonica, 49, of Hammond, was convicted on Sept. 5 of four counts of aggravated rape for abusing his two sons when they were age 11 or younger.

Lamonica is the second of the seven members of the now-defunct Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula to be convicted of rape for their roles in an alleged child sex ring involving three children. Investigators have alleged that some of the acts were part of occult rituals.

Lamonica’s sons, now 18 and 22 years of age, were the two victims Lamonica was tried for raping. They testified at his trial that they had lied when they told authorities in 2005 that their father had abused them.

In court Tuesday, Lamonica exchanged smiles with family members, including his mother, aunt and younger son. His younger son read a statement written by the elder son into the court record during Lamonica’s sentencing.

“My dad was innocent and yet he was still convicted,” Lamonica’s son said. “Now through the error of this court, my dad has been taken from me, and I beg for the mercy of this court not to take my dad away for the rest of my life.”

Lamonica was sentenced six weeks after a trial that lasted for nearly two weeks before being recessed for five days for the preparation and aftermath of Hurricane Gustav. The trial resumed on Sept. 4, and the jury deliberated for eight hours, finally reaching its decision at 1:45 a.m. on Sept. 5.

Like Lamonica’s sons, his attorney, Michael Thiel, reiterated on Tuesday that the former pastor is innocent and had confessed to authorities and in writing that he raped his sons because a so-called prophet at the Hosanna Church controlled him.

Thiel also added that juries have a predisposition to believe child rape charges. That predisposition, coupled with the extensive pre-trial publicity surrounding the arrests in May 2005 and the conviction of Hosanna member Austin “Trey” Bernard III in December 2007, prejudiced the proceedings, Thiel said.

“Try as a person might, it is very difficult to dislodge first impressions,” Thiel said.

Assistant District Attorney Don Wall said that the jury reached a just and proper verdict in Lamonica’s trial.

“I wouldn’t have presented this case to a jury if I believed nothing happened,” Wall said.

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