CLARKSVILLE, Ark. (BNc)- A former minister accused of raping a child entered a no-contest plea Thursday and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Jose Angel Banda, 48, who was Hispanic minister serving with the Clarksville congregation, was facing five charges of assaulting five girls, ages 4 to 9.
The other four charges were dropped after he entered his no-contest plea before Johnson County Circuit Judge James Kennedy and was pronounced guilty, according to Deputy Prosecutor Bruce Wilson, said an Associated Press report earlier today.
Arkansas State Police were summoned to the Johnson Regional Medical Center in October where they met with two girls under 14 who alleged that Banda had raped them. The next day, Investigator Stacie Rhoads conducted interviews with five girls–including the original two victims.
Banda, a Mexico native and resident alien in the US, was employed by the Clarksville congregation in July 2002.
The elders placed Banda on administrative leave and relieved him of all ministerial duties Oct. 3 after police notified the church of the investigation. Wilson said the children’s parents were present when Banda entered his plea, and told prosecutors they were pleased and relieved that their children would not have to testify in court.
Banda will be eligible for parole after serving 70% of his sentence, or 17 1/2 years.