The preliminary hearing for Reuben Lydell Mitchell, 43, got off to a late start and will be continued at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in Manteca court, where prosecutor Robert Martinelli is expected to call to the stand a 20-year-old woman who claims Mitchell molested her several years ago.
Mitchell, the pastor of Koinenia Christ Community Church in Tracy, faces one count of committing lewd acts on child younger than 14 and a second count related to the same girl a couple of years later. He also faces two counts of molesting a girl age 14 or 15 while older than the victim by 10 years or more.
Tuesday morning, a girl identified only as Jane R. Doe took the stand, while a woman from the San Joaquin County office that helps crime victims stood behind her for support. Jane sat at an angle facing the jury box, so presumably she didn’t have to look at the pastor, though she pointed him out when asked.
Under questioning from prosecutor Robert Martinelli, Jane said she has spent weekends at the pastor’s house with his wife and two sons for roughly six years. She said her stays started on Friday nights, when she and others would study the Bible with the pastor, and she would return to her Manteca home each Sunday.
One night, when she was 13, Jane testified, Mitchell sat next to her on the couch with his arm around her while the two watched the movie “The Brave One.” Mitchell’s wife and two boys were upstairs, she said.
Jane said that not long after the movie started, Mitchell kissed her on the lips. She was unsure how long it lasted, she said, though he kissed her “a lot,” she testified. He said nothing to her, nor did he touch her body, other than putting a hand on her shoulder, she said.
Jane said she told her brother what happened, but she told no one else until she spoke with Tracy Police Department detective Nate Cogburn and another officer at her high school in September.
Two years after the first incident, she said, Mitchell kissed her again. It was at night when she was asleep, she said, and he knelt beside her futon, lifted her shirt slightly, kissed her lower back once very close to her buttocks and then kissed her once on the neck.
The next day, Jane testified, the pastor apologized, telling her, “I know what I did hurt you. I love my wife very much.”
She said he asked for forgiveness, and she said she told him, “I forgive you.”
She continued to spend weekends at the pastor’s house until the molestation investigation this year, she said, because the pastor said he was sorry and no other incidents had taken place since.
Under cross-examination by Mitchell’s defense attorney, Tim Rien of Livermore, Jane said she initially told Cogburn and the other officer that she loved Mitchell and that he never touched her. Rien said Cogburn lied to Jane to get her to say she was kissed on the couch.
Jane told Rien under oath that she never told anyone about the night Mitchell kissed her on the back, nor could she remember in what month it happened. She said she knew it happened when she was 15, because she was 16 when Cogburn interviewed her, and she knew the kisses on her back and neck took place the previous year.
But the defense attorney pressed Jane about when Mitchell kissed her on the couch and how she knew she was 13 rather than 14 — an important point, because the charge against the pastor carries a more serious penalty if the girl was 13.
Rien noted that “The Brave One” came out in 2007, when Jane would have been 14 or 15. The Internet Movie Database says “The Brave One” was released on DVD in September 2007.