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L.A. Pastor Pleads Not Guilty to Sexually Assaulting 14-Year-Old Girl

A South Los Angeles church leader pleaded not guilty today to charges that he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl who attended the church.

Leonel Pelayo, 45, of Carson, faces six felony counts, including committing a lewd act upon a child and unlawful sexual intercourse.

Pelayo, who prosecutors said is a pastor at Iglesia Apostolica Monte de Horeb, is accused of engaging in a sexual relationship with the teen between July 1 and Aug. 20.

Pelayo’s attorney, Edward R. Munoz, described his client as “an active member of the church.”

“I don’t think he was the pastor. I don’t know that he was the pastor,” Munoz said outside court.

Pelayo was arrested Sept. 9 by detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Abused Child Unit and released a few hours later on $140,000 bail.

Pelayo befriended the girl in a church youth group and took her to several vacant locations where he sexually assaulted her, the Los Angeles Police Department alleges.

Pelayo owns properties in areas throughout Los Angeles and the county, and he possibly used some of those locations to commit the alleged crimes, according to the LAPD.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Hilleri G. Merritt ordered Pelayo to return to the downtown Los Angeles courthouse on Nov. 5, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.

If convicted as charged, he faces up to four years and four months in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.“

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