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Reading man sentenced to prison for sexually assaulting girl while they were members of Jehovah’s Witnesses

A Reading man has been sentenced to 14 to 46 years in state prison for sexually assaulting a girl, starting in 2001 when he and the victim were members of the Jehovah’s Witness faith.

Luis Manuel Ayala-Velasquez, 56, had pleaded guilty to five felony counts, including rape of an unconscious person, and was sentenced Wednesday in Northampton County Court, state Attorney General Michelle Henry said in a release.

After his release from prison, Ayala-Velasquez must register his whereabouts as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Henry said.

Ayala-Velasquez was arrested last year after a grand jury investigation recommended sexual assault charges against more than a dozen members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith, Henry said.

Ayala-Velazquez and the girl were members of the Bethlehem Spanish Jehovah’s Witness congregation, according to court documents.

“The courageous victims who came forward and told the grand jurors their horrific stories of abuse led to charges against predatory defendants,” Henry said. “The abuse in this case began decades ago, but the brave victim and the diligent efforts of OAG (Office of Attorney General) agents and attorneys ensured that justice was served and, at long last, the defendant was held accountable.”

Authorities said the assaults began in 2001 when the victim was 12 and Ayala-Velasquez was 34 and living in Bethlehem.

Prosecutors said testimony from the victim reported he would sneak into her bedroom while she was sleeping and sexually assault her.

He sexually assaulted her multiple times per week over a period of two years, authorities said. He also tried to sexually assault her years later after she moved to Berks County, according to authorities.

Years after that, Jehovah’s Witness elders told the victim that they had learned of the assaults and Ayala-Velazquez was “disfellowshipped” or excommunicated and she would not have to worry about seeing him at meetings anymore, court documents state.

The investigating grand jury received records that corroborated the abuse, according to officials. While specifics were not included, records indicated Ayala-Velazquez admitted to the abuse, police said.

Source: Berkshire mont

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