– Richarde Monde, who is charged with molesting a 13-year-old
girl and who several women claim led a cult in the hills above
Aromas, waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday and
will be arraigned next month.
Hollister – Richarde Monde, who is charged with molesting a 13-year-old girl and who several women claim led a cult in the hills above Aromas, waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday and will be arraigned next month.
Monde, 55, and his attorney, Greg La Forge, briefly appeared before Judge Steven Sanders at the San Benito County Superior Court. The hearing, which was supposed to begin at 8:30am, started about 20 minutes late and lasted for no more than three minutes.
In that time, Sanders made sure Monde was aware of the charges against him and that he accepted waiving his right to the hearing. Monde confirmed he was aware of the charges and then hurriedly left the courtroom without commenting further.
La Forge said afterwards that he decided to skip the preliminary hearing because he found out the prosecution wasn’t going to call the alleged victim as a witness.
“I wouldn’t have been able to glean any information from the alleged victim,” he said. “In a preliminary hearing, unless you have an actual witness on the stand, there’s only so much you can do as a defense attorney. In this case I didn’t feel it was worth it.”
District Attorney John Sarsfield said the prosecution was going to call San Benito County Sheriff’s Detective Chris Green to testify about his investigation into the alleged molestation.
Monde allegedly committed a lewd act with a child several years ago and was arrested in April, according to Green. The criminal investigation was sparked when the child Monde allegedly molested was arrested for shoplifting in July 2003 and told her probation officer about the molestation, Green has said.
During his investigation, Green said he talked to women who claimed Monde was the leader of a cult. Several of the women have said he brainwashed at least six female followers and fathered six children with three of them over two decades.
They said he portrayed himself as a personal growth counselor and enticed them into the group to be in a band called The Final Cut.
Monde has refused to comment on any of the allegations, and La Forge said he doesn’t believe the molestation charges or the existence of a cult. He said the charges stem from a custody battle Monde has been involved in with one of the women since November 2003.
“The custody case was filed way before the criminal case was filed – that puts up a huge red flag,” La Forge said. “There’s no cult. I reviewed my reports, and an alternative lifestyle does not equate with a cult. It’s not like they’re sitting up there drinking grape juice.”
Sarsfield, who has confirmed many of the women’s claims about the cult, said he wasn’t surprised when Monde waived his right for the hearing.
A preliminary hearing is held to determine if a person charged with a felony should be tried for the crime based on the evidence. Skipping a preliminary hearing is common and the prosecution has ample evidence to take this case to trial, he said.
“We would not have been able to charge him if we didn’t,” he said.
Monde will be arraigned on Dec. 8 in Department 2 of the San Benito County Superior Court at 10am.
Erin Musgrave covers public safety for the Free Lance. Reach her at 637-5566, ext. 336 or [email protected]