— TULSA (AP) — A former Tulsa megachurch employee accused of making a lewd proposal to a child has asked a judge to dismiss the charge against him because he says prosecutors didn't present enough evidence at a preliminary hearing to prove he knew the girl was under 16 years old.
A judge is expected to rule Tuesday on whether the case against Israel Castillo, 23, can go forward. Castillo was a janitor at the 17,000-member Victory Christian Center when authorities say he sent explicit Facebook messages to a 14-year-old girl he had known for at least two years. A second charge of using a computer to commit a sex crime was dismissed because both counts involved the same evidence.
Castillo has pleaded not guilty and has been free on bail since September. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
His attorney, Hugh Hood, argued in a recent court motion that the case should be dismissed because prosecutors failed to produce any evidence at a November hearing that showed Castillo knew the girl was under age.
At that hearing, a Tulsa Police detective testified that Castillo told him that while there were conversations of a sexual nature on the victim's Facebook feed, the pair never had sexual contact. The detective said he believed Castillo referred to the girl as a minor, but Hood challenged that assertion.
"There is absolutely no testimony to establish the defendant was aware of the complaining witness' age," Hood argued then. In a statement Monday, Hood reiterated that claim and said his motion spoke for itself.
A message left Monday for a prosecutor handling the case was not immediately returned.
Another former church employee, Chris Denman, 20, was sentenced last month to 55 years in prison after pleading guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl in a church stairwell.
Five church employees — including the son and daughter-in-law of Victory co-founder and senior pastor Sharon Daugherty — have been accused of waiting two weeks to report the rape. They have each pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to report the abuse in a timely manner.