Judge sentences 2 former Jehovah’s Witnesses to judicial supervision and community service for failing to report sexual assault

File photo – Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses | Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Beanbags5489

Two former Jehovah’s Witnesses from Crystal Lake found guilty of failing to report a child sexual assault victim have been sentenced to court supervision and community service.

Michael Penkava, 72, of the 0-100 block of Franklin Avenue in Crystal Lake, and Colin Scott, 88, of the 300 block of Krenz Avenue in Cary, have both been charged with one count breach of reporting provisions, a class A misdemeanor.

Court documents allege that Penkava and Scott, who were commissioned reporters, knew of a child who was being sexually assaulted and abused but failed to report it.

Arturo Hernandez-Pedraza, 44, of Crystal Lake, was convicted in October 2019 of more than a dozen sex crimes against the girl.

Prosecutors said Hernandez-Pedraza sexually assaulted the girl, who is now an adult, weekly and sometimes even daily for more than 13 years, dating back to 2005.

Hernandez-Pedraza threatened to kill the victim, her mother and her brother if she told anyone about the assaults, prosecutors said.

The girl told her mother about the attacks when she was 6 years old.

The church where she attended with her mother, the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Crystal Lake, was also told about the allegations, but they also did not report it to police, prosecutors said.

The girl reported the abuse again in 2018 to the church, and Penkava eventually reported it to Crystal Lake police, who launched an investigation.

Hernandez-Pedraza was sentenced to 50 years in prison and required to register for life as a sex offender upon his release.

Both Penkava and Scott were elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses and commissioned journalists.

The two were convicted on March 18 of one count of violating reporting provisions, a Class A misdemeanor.

On Friday, McHenry County Judge Mark Gerhardt sentenced Penkava and Scott each to one year of supervision, 10 hours of public service and ordered them to pay more than $1,000 in fines and court costs.

Prosecutors had asked Gerhardt to sentence the men to 12 days in jail and 30 months of community service, the Northwest Herald reported.

Penkava said during the sentencing hearing that he did not believe he should report the abuse to authorities after receiving advice in 2006 from the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York.

“I had genuine trust and faith in God and the Judiciary Committee,” Penkava said, the Herald reported. “I have never acted in bad faith. I truly believed that I was following Illinois law. I am so sorry for any suffering in this utterly sad situation. I never became a conspirator to cover up child abuse.

Norma P. Rex