The Children of God/The Family
On June 26, 2000, an investigation was initiated against two Family members in San Luis, Potosi, Mexico, in response to a complaint filed by Matthew Christopher Hurley, Vice-Consul of the US consulate at Monterrey, and Carolyn Lazaro, Consular official at San Luis de Potosi (Process no. 128/2000). This complaint was filed at the Prosecutors Office, on the grounds of having witnessed these Family members with their minor children distributing religious posters in the downtown plaza area of San Luis de Potosi. The men in question operated a mission in San Luis, "Nuevos Horizontes", affiliated to The Family (formerly known as the Children of God). This complaint was ratified before the Department for the Defense of the Minor and the Individual (DIF)
In her declaration, Ms. Lazaro claims that, " it is not my desire to formally press charges against any person, what I am soliciting is that an investigation be initiated regarding the integrity of the minors, whether physical or moral "
The prosecutors office responded to this call to investigate, and proceeded to level sweeping charges against some of the members of the local Family community, accusing them of statutory rape, rape and corruption of minors. Although several men lived in the communal mission, the prosecution singled out the two fathers of the children to designate as guilty parties. The children and adults were interviewed, the children vehemently denying having been victims of any kind of mistreatment or abuse, which the Prosecution ignored, stating that the testimony of the children couldnt be relied upon, as they would be likely to defend their fathers.
The lawyer for the defense had a very limited period of time to prepare for this case, and as such focused only on the more serious charges of rape and child abuse. These were concretely dismissed, while the lesser charge of corruption of minors by means of mendicity was upheld on a pre-trial basis, which in the Mexican judicial system signifies imprisonment pending trial. The argument given was that the children were possibly being corrupted by their participation in activities of distributing religious literature and requesting donations in exchange.
The Prosecution appealed the lower courts decision to throw out charges of rape and child abuse, to no avail, as the First Appeals Court of San Luis Potosi confirmed the lower courts decision on November 13th, 2000.
The Defense appealed the charges of the corruption of minors by exposing them to mendicity. The Appeals Court found the Defenses argument insufficient, but proceeded to conduct a revision of the case themselves on an ex officio basis, ruling in favor of the Defense. As such, the Appeals Court found the two imprisoned Family members innocent of these charges, fully exonerating them and placing them at liberty, after being imprisoned on a pre-trial basis for over four months.
Following are excerpts of the resolution emitted:
San Luis Potosi, S.L.P., November 28 (twenty-eight) of the year 2000 (two thousand).
Having in consideration that in order to resolve Case number 1159/2000 regarding the Appeal filed by the Public Prosecutor in regards to the Order of Release issued in the crimes of Rape and Statutory Rape, and the defense for the Detention Order issued for the crime of Corruption of Minors, both dated July 06 (six) of 2000 (two thousand), issued by the Third Criminal Court of this Capital; and AS STATED HEREIN:
HAVING IN CONSIDERATION THAT.-
The grounds for harm expressed by the Social Representative [Prosecutor] have been found inadmissible.
The appeal expressed by the Defense for the suspects was insufficient.
Based on articles 340 and 358 of the former Penal Procedural Code and corresponding provisions of articles 361 and 380 of the Penal Procedural Code in force in the State, this court proceeds to carry out an ex officio revision, having observed reservations that weigh in favor of the suspects, which will be defined below.
The required elements of the penal model of the crime of Corruption of Minors, with provision in article 250 and sanctioned by 251, both from the Penal Code in force when the deeds occurred, are:
In the opinion of this Appeals Court, the elements required are not fully and legally satisfied in the terms of article 179 of the former Penal Procedural Code and corresponding article107 of the Penal Procedural Code in force in the State, the assertion of which evidently causes harm to the accused.
In view of the fact that the Court does not share the criterion upheld by the Judge of the case who considered that the first of said elements was proven by the complaint presented by Pablo Aurelio Oyarvide, who reported that he presented a formal complaint against whomever proved responsible for the deeds manifested by Mrs. Carolyne H. Lazaro, Consular Agent for the United States at San Luis Potosi, and Mr. Matthew Christopher Hurley, presented before Maria Beatriz Vega, Procurator for the Defense of Minors, the Family and Women, as well as the appearance in writing of Carolyne H. Lazaro and Mr. Matthew Christopher Hurley, Vice Consul for the United States at Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, duly ratified by them
The elements of conviction formerly analyzed, which were considered by the lower court to accredit the corpus delicti of the crime of Corruption of Minors of which the suspects are charged, in the judgment of this Court are insufficient for reasons that we will bring forth below
Now, literally, by mendicity it is understood that it "is the state and situation of a beggar"; and a beggar is "one who habitually begs"; for this, it is necessary that the beggar beg as a consequence of his condition of indigence; and by indigence is understood a person whose resources are not sufficient for livelihood. In this situation, in order to accredit the corpus delicti in question, it is sufficient to incite or encourage a minor to the practice of indigence and vagrancy; and if indigence is understood as a person whose resources are not sufficient for livelihood, in this case, it has not been manifested that the accused incited, procured or encouraged the minors to live as indigents--that is without sufficient livelihood, and that for this reason they had need of asking for money in the street.
Above all, taking into account the statement of Carolyne H. Lazaro, in her appearance before the Procurator for the Defense of the Minor, Women and the Family, where she stated that:
" [O]ne day at the Plaza de Armas, probably in the Month of March, a young girl of approximately 11 years of age approached her, speaking in English and gave her a leaflet with a Bible verse, asking her for five pesos in exchange. Telling her that she isnt accustomed to giving money to people, she invited her to speak with her that they dedicate themselves to feeling the needy and she and her family are missionaries. The child was well dressed, clean, uninhibited in her speech . When I asked if she attended school, she said that no, they had classes in their home...".
From the former, it cannot be concluded that the minors had the quality or state of being indigents, considering this as being "without sufficient resources for their livelihood"; as the witnesses all coincided in stating that the foreign minors sold the leaflets with religious propaganda, and that the price of these was five pesos, and that if someone didnt give them money, they didnt give them a leaflet; from which we can conclude that they were not begging, since "alms" is understood as "help or charity that is given to help for a need". And as such, the alms that are given are within the prudent judgment of the giver. In the case in question, if the leaflets had a price, which the witnesses agreed in stating was of five pesos, by implication, the minors were selling the leaflets of religious propaganda and not asking for alms
From this proceeding, it can be observed that the minors did not fit the characteristic of indigents, since they had all the necessary elements to live in human dignity.
On the other hand, "vagrancy" is literally understood as "the act of loafing about or not having a profession or occupation." From the elements of conviction acting in the summary in question, it is not observed that the prosecuted incited the minors to the practice of vagrancy--that is to the state of being without profession or benefit; more so, if we take into account the statement of the person who denounced the acts before the Procurator for the Defense of the Minor and the Family, Carolyn H. Lazaro, who manifested that in speaking with one of the minors that asked for money on the street, she asked if they went to school, to which the minor replied no, they are taught at home
?Also the statements of the minors whose testimonies are visible on pages 14 and 19 of the summary. Before the investigative body, in the part that concerns us, the first of them stated,
"[W]e came here to do missionary work because we visit the poor and give them food and clothing; we have gone to public soup kitchens and asylums; we sing songs and give leaflets about Jesus and God; our organization is called Nuevos Horizontes and I study at home and I dont go to school. I do know how to read and write; the leaflets that we distribute are made in the United States and we distribute them in the Plaza de Armas and also in parks and when we give them to people we sometimes ask them if they want to help with a donation and people sometimes give me money "
From these testimonies there is no manifestation of a direct charge laid against the suspects as persons who incited, induced or assisted or procured the minors to the practice of mendicity, inciting them or encouraging them in the practice of indigence or vagrancy.
Therefore it must be affirmed that the crime of Corruption of Minors in the Penal Code lies within the corresponding title of that which "opposes Public Morals". Although it is true that every crime is at variance with the order of ethics from a sociological point of view, taking into consideration the contents of the chapter relative to "Corruption of Minors", it must be affirmed that what is being protected is the scale of moral values of society, understood as regards socially accepted traditional institutions, which are respect of family, abstention of reprehensible sexual conduct. That is to say, in the absence of what is known as "vices" and in general, in situations that form part of the social moral heritage whose contradiction is not in itself criminal, to maintain a different criterion would lead to sustaining that any inducement to an activity that differs from the socially accepted as "moral", whatever it may be, if it is directed to a minor, constitutes corruption, and this is inadmissible. Corruption of a minor would exist only when the activity being induced infringes the values that form part of the purely ethical heritage of the community, besides the values protected by law.
In the instant case, although it is true that the minors sold a leaflet with religious content for five pesos to people transiting through the public place, the fact is that although it could well be a manner of conduct that is not within the scale of values of certain people, it is not precisely within the scale of values understood under the title of "public moral conduct". So much so, that none of the witnesses presented by the Public Prosecutor declared that the activity of the suspects and the minors was morally reprehensible, as they all coincided in their testimonies that they were selling leaflets in the street with the supposed goal of helping poor people, without there being any information in the proceedings to detract from this assertion.
On the other hand, this Court of Appeal considers that in order to configure the corpus delicti for the crime of Corruption of Minors contemplated by article 250 of the former Penal Code, it is necessary to prove that the conduct carried out by the suspects initiates the minor in the practice of mendicity, consistent with inducing the minor to alter norms of conduct in such a way as could produce or does produce a slackening of moral values.
Consequently, this corpus delicti is proven only if the suspect commits acts that induce the minor to practices that affect the sphere of their honesty and morality. In the case at bar, the accusing body did not prove such circumstances In the case in question, no type of moral decline is manifested in the conduct of the minors. On the contrary, they showed themselves satisfied with what they call their mission of helping poor people; and with the schooling they receive at their residence. Plus, they are clean and adequately dressed according to the statement of the witnesses. As such, although they did distribute leaflets of a religious nature in the public thoroughfare, due to the fact that, up until this point, there exists no element of proof that the suspects intended with said conduct to induce the minors to the practice of mendicity, or vagrancy or indigence, this is not the type of case described by penal norms foreseen as the crime of Corruption of Minors.
Furthermore, the victim is not corrupted as long as by his own volition he does not behave in a criticizable manner and in this case there is no element of proof of such circumstances. Since it was not proven either that the suspects intended to corrupt the minors, the first of the elements of the corpus delicti in question are not admitted
In light of the above the legal and admissible is to Revoke the Order of Imprisonment issued for [the accused] for the crime of Corruption of Minors, in the Penal Trial number 128/2000 being carried out in the Third Penal Court of this Capital City, ordering their immediate and total release...
Consequently, the ORDER OF FORMAL IMPRISONMENT issued on July 6th of the year 2000 for [the accused] for the crime of CORRUPTION OF MINORS IS REVOKED and their immediate and absolute release is ordered.
Also, the ORDER OF RELEASE in favor of [the accused] for the crimes of RAPE AND STATUTORY RAPE IS CONFIRMED as issued by the Judge of the Third Penal Court of this Capital City in Trial number 128/2000.
So, by unanimous vote sentenced and signed the Magistrates of the Honorable First Court of the Supreme Court of Justice of the State, with Magistrate Alvaro Eguia Romero presiding and Manuel Fragoso Portales acting as Secretary of the Study and Affair.I BEAR WITNESS
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