LAS VEGAS (AP) — After years of delays, a former storefront church pastor and international fugitive is due for trial Monday in Las Vegas on allegations that he sexually assaulted girls in his congregation under the guise of counseling.
Otis Holland, 59, faces life in prison on charges he abused girls as young as 7. He has been in jail since his arrest in January 2012 in Tijuana, Mexico. Known to his United Faith Church congregation as “Reverend Otis,” he was featured before his arrest on the television show “America’s Most Wanted.”
“He told my mother that he was going to take me for counseling,” a 21-year-old woman testified during a preliminary hearing in February 2013. She said she was 14 when Holland first took her after Sunday church services to a limousine fitted with a back seat that reclined into a bed and used a sex toy on her.
The Associated Press typically does not identify people who say they have been hurt in sexual assault cases.
Holland’s defense attorney, Carmine James Colucci, didn’t respond to messages this week from AP.
The woman who testified in 2013 said that as Holland started to take off her pants in the limo, he told her he wanted to show her something that would relieve tension and frustration. Another time, she said, she saw a red flashing light and the lens of a video camera amid pillows on a futon in a bedroom at Holland’s home.
Under questioning by Holland’s defense attorney at the time, the girl conceded that she didn’t tell anyone about the alleged sexual acts, including her mother who would drop her off every Sunday at Holland’s house. The encounters stopped, and she finally told her biological father a year later, when he asked her why her school grades had fallen.
Holland also had sexual relationships with adult women in his congregation, according to police reports and pretrial testimony. Church members at first publicly supported him, but turned against him as other girls began making similar allegations.
Holland has pleaded not guilty to 17 felony charges, including child sexual assault, lewdness, and bribing a witness. Holland also faces two misdemeanor evidence tampering charges. He could face life in prison with or without the possibility of parole if he’s convicted of the sex assault charges.
Jury selection could take days, due to the attention the case received.
Prosecutor Robert Langford said this week he expects that Holland will testify during trial, which is expected to take about a week in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas.
“The state is going to present overwhelming evidence,” said Langford, a veteran Nevada attorney who is serving as special prosecutor because Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson was Holland’s defense lawyer after Holland was first arrested by Henderson police. Wolfson became district attorney in February 2012.
Another woman, now 22, testified at an April 2013 preliminary hearing that she met Holland when she was younger than 8, and began having sex with him when she was 15. For more than a year while she was attending high school, Holland took her to a doctor in Las Vegas who gave her monthly birth control injections, she said.
Holland also shared a ship cabin with the teenage girl and her younger sister during a cruise vacation alone with them in August 2010, authorities said. She told police Holland bought diamond jewelry and clothes for her and told her that if she told others what was going on Holland would be sent to jail and the church would split up.
Holland also is accused of felony witness intimidation and misdemeanor evidence tampering. Authorities say he instructed a girl’s mother and her ex-husband to destroy computer hard drives, sex toys and church counseling session paperwork.