KFSN-TV Fresno, California April 29, 2011
Madera County minister accused of molestation in court
by Sara Sandrik
MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Madera County children's minister who has been a foster parent for more than 15 years will go to trial on child molestation charges.
Cameras were not allowed inside the courtroom for Friday's hearing. But behind these doors, two Madera County deputies delivered gut wrenching testimony about five girls who have all accused Alberto Rodriguez of sexual abuse.
According to authorities, the victims in this case say the abuse happened when they were as young as nine years old. Three of them were foster children in Rodriguez's Madera County home. Two of them were neighbors who often visited the house. One of the girls told investigators Rodriguez first touched her inappropriately inside the Valley West Christian Center where he worked as a children's minister.
In each of the cases, the girls described trusting Rodriguez like a father and being assaulted while doing innocent things like watching cartoons or playing video games.
Michael Keitz said, "Whenever you see someone, especially in a trusted position in a case such as this and you've got victims who come forward and allege conduct of one sort or another that's inappropriate you know your heart just goes out to these people."
The defense attorney in the case did not want to speak on camera, but he told Action News his client is not guilty. However, the judge ruled there is enough evidence to send Rodriguez to trial. Prosecutors say they plan to request consolidating this case with that of a sixth alleged victim.
The judge also nearly doubled the bail for Rodriguez to one million dollars. He's scheduled to be back in court in two weeks.
by Sontaya Rose
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A North Valley children's minister who has been a foster parent for more than 15-years was able to get a license to care for children despite a conviction for a sex crime.
48-year-old Alberto Rodriguez was arrested earlier this month after Madera County Sheriff's investigators say he molested children in his care.
60 kids have been through the Rodriguez home, since he became a foster parent. The foster agency that he accepted children from says they knew about his past, but petitioned to get him certified anyway. Until a few weeks ago, Rodriguez was up to date and licensed as a foster parent who met the requirements.
Court records obtained by Action News show Alberto Rodriguez was charged in four separate incidents, dating back to the early 1980's. They involved various women who claimed he tried to have sexual contact with them against their will. Rodriguez spent two years in state prison after agreeing to a plea deal for the felony crime of first degree burglary with the intent to commit sexual battery. We asked state licensing officials how someone with a criminal background could pass a background check.
Rodriguez worked through the foster care agency, Valley Teen Ranch. The CEO declined an on camera interview. She told Action News quote: "I'm very aware of the situation. I am cooperating with everyone. It's awful."
Rodriguez and his wife live in Madera County. According to Valley Teen Ranch officials, he went through the process to become a foster parent in 1994 and was granted an exemption after writing a letter and submitting letters from others noting his upstanding character. State officials say it is possible to have a criminal past and still receive a license to legally take in foster children.
Rodriguez also worked as a children's minister at Valley West Christian Center in Madera. Church leaders say he also passed a department of justice background check they conducted. Once church staff heard about the allegation, Rodriguez was removed from his pastor position.
Rodriguez was licensed along with his wife. She has not been charged with any crimes. Church leaders say she was unaware of any alleged abuse. Alberto Rodriguez is charged with several counts of lewd acts with a child.
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