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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2006
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Church elder pleads guilty to sex abuse

PRATTVILLE (AP) - A church elder has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing his niece.

Roberto Soto Colon, 64, admitted touching his niece, Teresa Rivera Ward, inappropriately more than 25 years ago causing her emotional pain and Monday's plea almost assures prison time. Colon was an elder in the Prattville congregation of the Jehovah Witnesses at the time the abuse occurred.

"When I heard he was working with youth again at another church, I just had to come forward," Ward, 38, said. "My cousin is having a baby. The last thing I wanted was for the abuse to continue, I could not live with myself if that happened."

A one-year jail sentence is likely. Colon pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in place of a jury trial, where he could have received more than eight years in state prison if found guilty. Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds accepted the plea and asked Colon to describe what he did to his niece.

Colon barely spoke above a whisper as he described events more than 25 years old. Rey-nolds dismissed the jurors after all parties agreed to the terms.

He set sentencing for Feb. 20, during which time, the district attorney will conduct a pre-sentencing investigation of Colon.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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