22 Aug 2015

Pastor's sentencing date to be set next month

7:17 am on 22 August 2015

A sentencing date will be set next month for a former Hutt Valley pastor found guilty of three of the seven sexual offending charges he faced.

Wellington High Court

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Jone Conikeli, 42, was on trial in the Wellington District Court this week on a range of charges, including assault with intent to commit sexual violation, indecently assaulting a child and doing an indecent act on a young person.

The offending was said to have occurred while he was a pastor of the Wellington branch of the Kingdom Ambassador International Fellowship church.

The Crown accused Conikeli of using opportunities that arose to attack the girls, who were aged 11 and 15 at the time, including dragging one of them into a toilet, and trying to persuade her to perform oral sex on him.

Crown prosecutor Ian Murray said Conikeli grabbed the younger girl while playing handball with her and secretly tried to grab her breasts.

Regarding the older girl, the Crown said Conikeli visited her home and tried to have sex with her in a bedroom but she struggled.

However the defence lawyer, Chris Nicholls, told the Jury his client maintained the offending did not occur.

He said the younger girl had lost her mother to cancer and blamed Mr Conikeli for helping her father remarry to a woman she did not like.

Mr Nicholls said the girls had colluded with each other while away in Auckland in the school holidays and made up untrue allegations against his client.

After deliberating for more than 10 hours a jury at the Wellington District Court returned its verdicts shortly before 10pm last night.

A majority of Jurors found Conikeli guilty on one charge of assault with intent to commit sexual violation and two charges of indecently assaulting a child.

However the Foreman told Judge Bill Hastings they could not agree on the other four charges.

Judge Hastings told the Jurors they had had a very long day and thanked them for the conscientious way they had carried out their duties all week.

After the verdicts were returned he gave Conikeli a three-strikes warning and remanded him on bail to reappear in court next month.

Conikeli is on strict bail conditions, including that he have no contact with anyone under 16 unless under the direct supervision of an adult.

No sentencing date has been set, as the Crown is still to decide whether to seek a retrial on the charges the Jury could not agree upon.