The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 5, 2012

Ex-youth minister convicted of sex abuse in Cullman County

By Jean Cole

— A former Wetumpka youth minister, already convicted for sex crimes in Elmore County, has been convicted also in Cullman County.

John A. Astorga, 38, of Titus, was previously a youth minister at the Bethel Assembly of God. A Cullman County jury on Tuesday night found Astorga guilty of first-degree sexual abuse following a trial that began Dec. 3 in Cullman County Circuit Court. The Alabama Attorney General's Office presented evidence that included testimony of the victim, who was under age 12 at the time of the crime.

Astorga faces a potential penalty in Cullman County of one year and one day to 10 years for the Class C felony. Additionally, this conviction requires him to register as a convicted sex offender and abide by the community notification requirements of state law, as already is required by his previous conviction in Elmore County on April 11.

Astorga had been free on an appeal bond from the Elmore County conviction, for which he was sentenced to 36 months in jail for two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, to run concurrently. Following his conviction in Cullman County, he now is in custody of the Cullman County Sheriff's Office, pending sentencing in this case. After the completion of a pre-sentence investigation report, a sentencing hearing will be scheduled.

"We will urge the court to consider the predatory nature of this man's crimes and the devastation caused to his child victims, and to impose a prison sentence," said Attorney General Luther Strange. "We are deeply concerned about the damage that he has done, and want to ensure that he does not have the opportunity to continue to prey upon innocent children."   

The cases were prosecuted by the Attorney General's Criminal Trials Division. Strange commended those involved, specifically naming Assistant Attorneys General Andrew Arrington and John Hensley as well as special agents of his Investigations division, and Victim Service Officer Doris Hancock.

He also thanked the Cullman County Sheriff's Office, the Cullman County District Attorney's Office, and the Cullman County Child Advocacy Center, for valuable assistance in reaching the conviction.