July 18, 2018

Joliet woman pleads guilty to lesser charge in sex cult abuse case

An almost 6-year-old criminal case involving a Joliet woman accused of sexually abusing an underage boy as part of a sex cult ritual came to a close Wednesday.

Margarita Hernandez, 38, avoided being convicted of the initial charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. She instead pleaded guilty to solicitation to meet a child and was placed on two years of probation and ordered to have no contact with the victim, Will County State’s Attorney spokesman Charles B. Pelkie said.

Hernandez also must continue with her psychiatric treatment and pay the standard fines and costs in the case, Pelkie said.

Pelkie said there was a compelling and well-founded psychological report that stated John Gabriel, 82, who was convicted of manufacturing child pornography for making videos allegedly showing Hernandez having sex with teenage boys, groomed the woman from a young age.

He currently is serving a 15-year federal prison sentence.

The report also said Gabriel mentally controlled and abused Hernandez.

“It was a report that would have been very difficult to refute. It was by a credible psychologist,” Pelkie said.

County prosecutors consulted with the victim and his family members, and they concurred with the disposition, he said.

Hernandez will not be placed on the sex offender registry.

One of Hernandez’s attorneys, Daniel Locallo, has said her attorneys were trying to negotiate a deal with prosecutors to avoid her placement on the registry for life.

Steve Landis, another one of Hernandez’s attorneys, called the case’s outcome a “fair compromise under the circumstances.”

He said Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow and his staff “reviewed this matter with great diligence and compassion for everyone involved, including my client.”

“I believe that the report of the defense’s chosen expert, Dr. Steve K. D. Eichel, was found to be very compelling and mitigating of Margarita’s circumstances,” Landis said.

Gabriel, a retired journalist for The Times Weekly and Weekly Reporter, recorded Hernandez and others engaging in sex acts, which he claimed was a religious ritual, according to court files.

Gabriel’s victim was told that each time a participant had sex with a troubled boy, a wealthy benefactor would buy guide dogs for the blind and fund children’s wings for hospitals, federal prosecutors have said.