Jury selection began Monday in the trial of a Crystal Lake man accused of sexually assaulting a female relative for 13 years.
Arturo Hernandez-Pedraza, 42, appeared in McHenry County court Monday in a pair of orange jail scrubs beside his public defenders. He has been in custody at the McHenry County Jail since Oct. 20, 2018, on felony charges tied to more than a decade of sexual assault and abuse allegations.
The accusations came to light after the alleged victim disclosed the abuse to her mother, prosecutors said. Hernandez-Pedraza faces charges of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, domestic battery, and sexual relations within families. The alleged assault and abuse occurred between 2005 and 2018, records show. Should jurors convict Hernandez-Pedraza of the most serious offense, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, he could be sentenced to as many as 30 years in prison.
Attorneys met before jury selection to determine, in part, whether two elders from Hernandez-Pedraza’s congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses would be made to testify against him. Hernandez-Pedraza made admissions about the allegations to two church leaders, who gave written statements to the Crystal Lake Police Department after charges were filed, prosecutors said.
On Monday, the church leaders told prosecutors they wished to invoke a privilege that is sometimes afforded to religious leaders who are asked to testify in court. McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Susanne Groebner said the church members waived that privilege when they gave their statements to police.
McHenry County Judge Michael Coppedge will rule on the matter when the witnesses are called to testify.
The trial will continue Tuesday morning.