Lehighvalleylive.com has reported that an underage girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by a deacon from the Church of God - Holy Ground church located at 5205 Milford Rd, East Stroudsburg, PA 18302.
On Sunday, November 7, 2021, 45-year-old Jeronimo Maisonet was arrested after being accused of sexually assaulting a minor. The abuse was reported to have started in 2018 when she started attending the church. The victim claimed that Maisonet even said he would “leave his wife, and they would be together.” She further alleges that the deacon would make her sit on his lap while he had an erection during worship, and after, would take her to a private area to grope and kiss her.
Police were able to record a phone conversation between Maisonet and the victim where he confessed to the abuse and said he was sorry. He has been charged with unlawful contact with a minor, indecent assault of a person younger than 16 years old, in addition to the corruption of minors. Police are concerned there may be additional victims.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent represents church sex abuse victims and their families in civil lawsuits. Brian has kindly shared some of his knowledge on the legal rights of church sex abuse victims and hopes to help answer who can be liable for sexual abuse in a church.
"Sexual predators often take up employment in positions of trust. Sadly this includes positions of pastors, deacons, priests, and other religious clergy members. There have been widespread reports of religious figures sexually abusing members of their congregation across a variety of religions and denominations. Many times, these victims are children."
"When a pastor is accused of sexually abusing church members, it is common for a thorough investigation to follow. In addition to a criminal investigation of the accused, the church should also be investigated for chances of negligence. It is the legal duty of a church to provide safety to both the congregation and staff, or they could be liable for the abuse. These safety measures should be taken seriously to ensure that the risk of abuse is reduced. Some church sex abuse cases only happen due to church negligence. This may include ignoring past reports of misconduct involving the pastor, deacon, or priest. In neglect cases, church sex abuse victims may have grounds for a civil lawsuit against the church. Victims and their families should learn more about their legal options by consulting with an experienced church sexual abuse lawyer."