Ventura church youth leader pleads guilty to engaging in sexual activity with a minor


The River Community Church in downtown Ventura occupies the site of the former Ventura Foursquare Church founded in 1925.

A Ventura church youth leader has pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

James Edward Duran II, 31, of Ventura, pleaded guilty Monday in Ventura County Superior Court to one count of oral copulation with a person under 18.

Duran worked as an unordained youth group leader at River Community Church, located at 889 E. Santa Clara St. in downtown Ventura. Her father, Jim Duran, is the senior pastor of the church.

Investigators say Duran first met the victim in 2013 when she was a teenager attending church.

Over the course of several years, Duran took the victim to “various locations to engage in various sexual acts,” according to the Ventura Police Department, which investigated the case. Some of the sexual encounters allegedly took place during church activities.

Duran’s actions were not reported by the victim until November 2021, when she reported the activity to Ventura police. He was arrested the following month.

Assistant District Attorney Rafael Orellana, the prosecutor handling the case, said Duran ultimately pleaded guilty to crimes that occurred between 2015 and 2016.

“We are confident that he takes responsibility for his crimes at an early stage,” Orellana said of the plea deal.

Duran’s attorney, David Lehr, said he was ready to resolve the case in January, but was delayed by COVID delays. He called the situation “unfortunate” and hopes it will not tarnish the reputation of the church.

“River Church does a lot of good for the community,” Lehr said.

Duran is scheduled to appear for sentencing at 9 a.m. on July 5 in Courtroom 23. He is expected to receive two years of felony probation and six months to a year in county jail, Orellana said. . He will also have to register as a sex offender.

Jeremy Childs is a breaking news and public safety reporter who covers the Ventura County Star’s night shift. He can be reached by calling 805-437-0208 or emailing [email protected] You can also find him on Twitter @Jeremy_Childs.

This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Ventura Church Youth Leader Pleads Guilty to Sexual Misconduct


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