Casper Pastor Accused of Beating Woman Pleads Not Guilty
UPDATE: A Natrona County District Court Clerk said Tuesday afternoon that Sanchez appeared at 11 a.m. and pleaded not guilty to the charges. District Court Judge Kerri Johnson also canceled Sanchez's warrant, the clerk said. Sanchez's bond conditions were also modified to allow him to travel to Laramie County.
A Casper pastor accused of severely beating a woman over a 14-year-period didn't initially appear for a hearing in which he was set to enter pleas to multiple felonies.
Sanchez appeared at 11 a.m. later on Tuesday. The clerk declined to specify the scheduling process behind the hearing.
Natrona County District Court Judge Kerri M. Johnson had initially issued a bench warrant for Raul Sanchez after he failed to appear for an 8:30 a.m. arraignment Tuesday, but that warrant was canceled.
Sanchez was arrested in August on seven counts of aggravated assault, two counts of strangulation of a household member and one count of domestic battery.
Sanchez's attorney, Joseph Hampton, said Sanchez has been good about keeping in contact. The defense attorney and Sanchez speak three times a week, Hampton said.
"I'm surprised he's not here," Hampton said during Tuesday's hearing.
Hampton said Sanchez was likely in Billings visiting relatives and was unable to make it to his court appearance due to inclement weather. Hampton said because Sanchez had been keeping in regular contact with him, Sanchez should have his arraignment hearing rescheduled without a bench warrant being issued.
Assistant Natrona County District Attorney Ava Bell disagreed, noting that Sanchez could face up to 90 years behind bars if convicted of all counts.
Johnson agreed to hear the other cases scheduled Tuesday morning before returning to Sanchez's case. When Sanchez was still absent, Hampton left the courtroom and attempted to call Sanchez to no avail.
After Hampton came back in the courtroom — still sans client — Johnson issued a warrant for Sanchez's arrest. That warrant was canceled when Sanchez appeared later that morning.
"He was aware of this court date," Johnson said.
Casper police arrested Sanchez in August after an investigation into Sanchez's alleged history of domestic violence.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, Sanchez "routinely" punched and kicked the victim. The victim allegedly told Casper police that one of Sanchez's "favorite" things to do was grab her by the hair when they were in a vehicle and slam her head against a car window.
Sanchez, at the time a pastor at Living Rock Foursquare church in Casper, often invoked God when he beat the victim, the affidavit says.
In an email response following Sanchez's arrest, the Los Angeles-based International Church of the Foursquare Gospel said this: "ICFG is just learning of this developing story and takes seriously the information and issues involved. We have no further comment at this time."
Sanchez's status as pastor at Foursquare was not immediately available Tuesday morning.
The affidavit describes an undated incident in which Sanchez allegedly made the victim strip naked in his office at NOWCAP. The victim said that she did so out of fear that Sanchez would beat her.
At the time of the incident, NOWCAP Executive Director Renate Pullen declined to confirm Sanchez's employment status per the advice of the company's attorney. His photo and contact information was removed from the NOWCAP website not long after his arrest.