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Pastor Charged with Sex Crimes against Child

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Former pastor pleads not guilty to sex charges


Reviewed by Attorney Elisabeth Pasqualini, Criminal Law Division Leader

A former San Clemente pastor pleaded not guilty Friday to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl more than a decade ago.

Joe David Nelms, 47, was extradited from Texas to face eight felony counts of lewd acts upon a child under 14, charges that he denied at his Friday arraignment, according to Orange County Superior Court records.


working as a youth pastor at Pacific Coast Church in San Clemente. He is accused of sexually assaulting her over a three-year period.

Nelms left Orange County in 2000, becoming a bible study teacher and a counselor for high school students in Texas.

The girl reported the alleged sexual assault earlier this year after a friend she confided in urged her to go to authorities. Nelms was arrested at his Texas home March 18 and extradited to Orange County on Wednesday.

Nelms remains in custody at Orange County Jail in lieu of a $200,000 bail, according to Orange County Sheriff's Department records. He is scheduled to return to court May 2 for a pretrial hearing and a bail review.

Authorities say they know of at least one other person who they suspect was sexually assaulted by Nelms but have been unable to identify her. They are asking other potential victims to come forward, noting that the statute of limitations has not expired.

Attorney Pasqualini's review-

If you are facing allegations or an investigation based upon sex crimes, contact a lawyer before you speak to the police.  Child sexual molestation or abuse cases are difficult for the prosecution to prove.  They usually require corroborating physical evidence, consistency in victim statements, and a confession or admission to all or some of the facts by the suspect.  Without these factors, it is very hard for the prosecutor to prove the crime occurred beyond a reasonable doubt.  Do not get fooled into thinking that the investigation will go away if you "tell your side of the story."  Everyone wants to the clear their name.  That's what the police are banking on when you go in for an interview at their behest without a lawyer.  Call an experienced attorney at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, toll free at 1-866-765-0706 or  You may contact Attorney Pasqualini directly at [email protected]

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