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A Santa Maria youth pastor and aspiring Christian rapper charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl numerous times pleaded guilty Monday and will be sentenced to eight years in state prison for his crimes.

Daniel James Moreno, 25, pleaded guilty to a single count of continuous sexual abuse of a child and a count of lewd and lascivious acts with a child, according to prosecuting attorney Brandon Jebens.

Moreno must serve 85 percent of his sentence before he's eligible for parole. Both counts also are "strikes," meaning if he ever were to commit another serious felony and be convicted of a "strikeable" offense, he would automatically face life in prison without parole.

He was arrested at his home in the early hours of March 28 on suspicion of the continual sexual abuse and booked into Santa Barbara County Jail, where he remains in custody. Prosecutors believe Moreno started having sex with the 14-year-old girl in September 2015.

She told Santa Maria Police Officer Erik Hesch that Moreno "began with inappropriately touching her in her 'private area' and progressively led to intercourse" and that since September the pair "have had intercourse multiple times," according to court records.

Moreno's wife, Katrina Moreno, reported her husband to police after witnessing the two having sex, according to court records. 

Moreno originally was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child; sodomy, which carries a prison sentence of 15 years to life; continuous sexual abuse, which carries a maximum sentence of 16 years; and four counts of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child, each carrying a maximum of eight years.

He also was charged with unlawful sexual intercourse and dissuading a witness — Katrina Moreno — by force or threat, according to court records.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 6 in Department 9 at Santa Maria Superior Court.

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April Charlton covers South San Luis Obispo County for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow her on Twitter@WordsDawn

 

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