Preacher admits molestation
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Curtis Lum
A former Kane'ohe minister admitted to a Circuit Court judge yesterday that he molested an underage member of his congregation over an eight-year period beginning when the girl was 11.
Manuel "Memo" Taboada, 57, made the confession to Judge Richard Pollack as part of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors. Taboada pleaded guilty to eight counts of second-degree sexual assault and faces a maximum 10 years in prison when he is sentenced June 29.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors will ask that Taboada serve six years in prison before he will be eligible for parole. Taboada had been charged with four counts each of second-degree and first-degree sexual assault, which carries a maximum 20-year prison term.
It will be up to the Hawai'i Paroling Authority to determine the minimum sentence Taboada must serve, but the panel cannot exceed 10 years.
Taboada said little during the court hearing, except to acknowledge the judge's questions that Taboada understood terms of the agreement. Taboada also told the judge that he did "commit the act of sexual penetration" from 2000 to 2007 when all eight counts were read.
After the proceedings, Taboada was handcuffed and taken back to jail. He has been in custody since he was arrested July 21, 2008.
Defense attorney Michael Green said outside the courtroom that he was satisfied with the agreement. He said his client took full responsibility for his actions and is prepared to write a letter of apology to his victim if asked to do so by the court.
"These cases, there are never any winners," Green said. "Had we gone to trial, we have a young woman who probably would have been devastated. We have a client who's looking at over a 100 years if he gets convicted. I think it's a reasonable disposition."
City Deputy Prosecutor Thalia Murphy agreed that the plea deal was fair and said it spared the victim the trauma of having to testify at trial. Murphy said she's satisfied with the prison term.
"Whenever you have a plea agreement, both sides give up something, both sides get a benefit," Murphy said. "Given the length of time and the horrific acts in this case, it would have been very difficult for the victim to testify. She was in agreement with the plea agreement in this case."
Taboada was indicted on July 23, 2008, and accused of molesting the daughter of a member of his ministry. The family lived with Taboada in his Kane'ohe home. He was accused of sexually assaulting the girl on eight occasions over an eight-year period.
Taboada, a naturalized citizen from Peru, came to Hawai'i with religious followers in 1999 and established a ministry called "Back to the Cross."
A father of five, Taboada also is under investigation in Portland, Ore., in connection with similar sex offenses. Green said no charges have been filed.
Murphy said she's pleased that Taboada's days of leading a ministry are over.
"For a long time, he was the head of a ministry both here and in Portland and certainly holding himself out as a minister, enlisted all sorts of trust issues with members of the public, gave him instant credibility and integrity," she said. "Now that he's a convicted sex offender, that's over for him. People are not going to afford him that instant respect and trust."
Reach Curtis Lum at email@example.com.