Former Fresno Minister Convicted on Rape Charges

May 14, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
25-year-old Anthony Ireland is now facing 100 years in prison. Jurors deliberated about 10 hours before they convicted Ireland of raping four prostitutes at knife point. The clerk read, "We the jury in the above entitled action, find the defendant Anthony Ireland guilty ... " Four guilty verdicts and no emotion from Anthony Ireland until the judge thanked the jury for their service. Then Ireland began crying and used a tissue to wipe his tears.

Juror number three declined to give her name. She described reaching the decision as painstaking. The juror said, "It was very hard, very hard to make a decision. We have a young man's life in our hands. We've got women in our hands. It was very hard and it took a long time."

Earlier this week, the prosecutor showed the jury a butcher knife. She said Ireland held the knife to the prostitutes' body as he raped them. Investigators say Ireland picked up the women two years ago on or near Motel Drive-an area of Fresno notorious for prostitution. All the victims testified during the trial, and Prosecutor Becky Gong thanked them, "These victims were strong in coming forward and sitting in front of the jurors and telling them what happened. So, we are very pleased each of them did that."

Ireland was once a minister for International Crossroads Community Church in West Fresno. Each of his conviction carries a 25 year penalty. Ireland's Defense Attorney Antonio Alvarez said the defendant knows he could spend the rest of his life in prison, "Unfortunately, the counts that he was convicted of, there is not a whole lot of discretion in terms of what the court can do. It's not the kind of case where there is a range of punishment. The punishment is life in prison."

Ireland's attorney said one day Ireland could be eligible for parole. The judge will sentence Ireland in June.

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