Utah Mormon church counselor arrested in child sex-abuse case
A local-level Mormon church counselor has been arrested for alleged sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl in his ward.
Cesar Duran, 31, was booked into Utah County jail on Tuesday on suspicion of two counts of sexually abusing a child with whom he had a relationship of special trust, a first-degree felony.
However, Duran's defense attorney, Clayton Simms, said his client will fight the charges.
"His position is that he is absolutely innocent," Simms said Thursday. "He was alone with this girl and didn't protect himself from false allegations. He maintains that nothing inappropriate occurred at all, there was no sexual contact."
LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter confirmed that Duran had, until this alleged incident, been a first counselor in the bishopric of a Spanish-speaking ward of the Geneva Height Stake in Orem.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind. Those found guilty of these actions are subject to the demands of the law and also face Church discipline," Trotter said. "The welfare of victims is our utmost concern and Church leaders will continue to offer counseling and other resources to help in the healing process."
On Monday, the girl and her family were helping clean the church when Duran asked the girl to help him clean a chalkboard in a classroom, according to an arrest document. He lifted the girl up to reach a high place on the chalkboard, and after he put her down, told her she was cute and asked for a hug. During the embrace, Duran allegedly made pelvic contact, according to the document.
She left the room for another classroom and kept cleaning. But while her back was turned, Duran grabbed her hips and again allegedly made pelvic contact, the document adds.
She ran from the room crying, found her aunt and told her what happened. She also told her aunt that she was scared of Duran, police said.
The family purportedly confronted Duran, who apologized for causing problems, the document states. The family also reported the incident to their bishop.
An Orem police officer called Duran, who agreed to come down to the station for an interview on Tuesday. But after the officer advised Duran of his rights, "he thought he should get an attorney. The interview was terminated," the document reads.
On the ride to Utah County jail, Duran said he made a mistake by being alone with the girl, the document adds.
He was booked into jail on $20,000 bail, awaiting the filing of formal charges 4th District Court.
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