Modesto CA man charged with molesting a family member

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A Modesto man who volunteered with youth at a Modesto church has been charged with child molestation.

Jim Patrick Arnold, 40, is accused of the continuous sexual abuse of a family member.

Arnold was a part-time volunteer youth ministry worker at Big Valley Grace Community Church. He has not been charged with any crimes associated with a child outside his family.

A week after Arnold’s Feb. 19 arrest, Senior Pastor Rick Countryman sent a letter to the parents of children in grades 5 through 8 saying Arnold had been removed from the ministry and is no longer allowed on the Big Valley Grace campus.

“We perform interviews and background checks on all employees and volunteers who work with children and youth …” the letter says. “Jim Arnold passed all background checks without report of any past indiscretions.”

The letter goes on to say the allegations occurred off campus with a relative, not with a Big Valley Grace student, but asks anyone with information about “inappropriate behavior … on the part of Jim Arnold” to first notify the Modesto Police Department, then Executive Pastor Bobby Kirchner.

In an email to The Bee Tuesday, Kirchner said he could not say in what capacity Arnold worked with children, if he ever accompanied them on any overnight trips, how long he’d been volunteering there and if he only worked with children in grades 5 through 8.

“I hope you can appreciate that Big Valley Grace cannot and will not comment further on an ongoing criminal case,” he said.

The alleged abuse by Arnold occurred between March 2018 and February 2019, according to a criminal complaint. He has been charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child, possession of an image of a minor engaged in sexual conduct, exploitation of a minor and using a concealed camera to secretly videotape another person.

A call to Arnold’s attorney James Reilly was not returned as of early Tuesday afternoon.

Arnold posted bond on a $100,000 bail the day after his arrest.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges last week. At a hearing Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney Erin Schwartz argued Arnold’s bail should be increased to $260,000 because at the time it was set he’d not been charged with the three crimes related to recording and possessing sexual images of a minor.

She said Arnold set up a camera in a bathroom that captured the victim showering.

Reilly argued the judge has the authority to set bail below the scheduled amount and should in this case because Arnold, among other things, has no previous criminal record, had made both his court appearances and is eager to resolve the case.

Judge Shawn Bessey kept Arnold’s bail at $100,000 but added a condition to his release that he have no unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 18, in addition to the terms of a restraining order granted to his wife.

Arnold’s wife filed for divorce and a restraining order on March 1, following the expiration of an emergency protective order. The order, granted March 4, prohibits Arnold from going within 100 yards of his wife and children, their home, vehicles, school and work.

Arnold works as a senior human resources analyst at the Modesto Irrigation District, according to his Facebook page. Representatives of MID had not returned calls for comment as of early Tuesday afternoon. He worked for the city of Modesto from 2011 to 2017, and was promoted seven times, reaching the position of human resources manager, according to city spokesman Thomas Reeves.

Arnold is due to return to court April 12.



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