Crime and Courts

San Diego church choir leader pleads not guilty to sexual assault of 15-year-old

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A church choir group leader accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl who was a member of the San Ysidro church's choir pleaded not guilty Tuesday to four counts of lewd acts on a child.

San Diego police say Rafael Valentin Magana, 27, drove the alleged victim to and from a baby shower on Nov. 6, 2021.

After the baby shower, police said Magana drove the girl to the Paradise Hills neighborhood, parked the car on Reo Drive, sexually assaulted her, then drove the girl home.

NBC 7's Shandel Menezes spoke to investigators about the troubling case.

Police identified the girl only by her age and stated she was a member of a church choir group at Victory Outreach Church in San Ysidro. Magana, who was 25 years old at the time of the alleged sexual assault, was described as her church choir group leader.

The alleged victim did not report the incident to police until March of this year due to what police described as "a confluence of factors."

"The confluence of factors could be, for example, there is this power dynamic, someone from the church who is viewed as a erson of power, or at least a person of influence, sometimes that makes it more difficult for people to come forward to report something," said Lt. Rivera with SDPD's Sex Crimes Unit.

The ensuing investigation led to Magana's arrest last Thursday in National City.

Magana was booked into county jail last week on $100,000 bail and remained in custody on that amount following Tuesday's arraignment in San Diego Superior Court. Should he make bail, he was ordered against contacting the alleged victim and to stay at least 100 yards away from her and the church.

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