Felix Manzanares grateful for support of his family
Mr. Manzanares, who cried tears of relief in the dock at Grand Court as the verdict was announced on Thursday, was a married man and a youth pastor when he kissed the woman at her West Bay home.
He always accepted he made a mistake and a “moral failure,” but he maintained that the liaison with the 41-year-old woman was consensual and that he had not fondled her, as she claimed.
Now, after being vindicated following a four-day trial last week, he hopes to get his life back on track.
Mr. Manzanares has already paid a heavy price, resigning from his role at the Church of God in George Town following adverse publicity in the aftermath of the incident.
After the trial, he said, “I feel so relieved, justice has been served. We proved our case and a very challenging chapter in my life has been closed. Psychologically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, this has been very difficult.
“It affected my position as a pastor, it affected my credibility in the community, it created a big wound in my marriage, but I have got through it with the support of my family.”
Mr. Manzanares is still married and his wife was in the public gallery to support him at Grand Court on Thursday, along with a large crowd of friends, family and members of his church.
“I am so grateful for the support I have received. As challenging as this has been, it has brought our family closer together and we have made renewed commitments to each other,” he said.
Immediately after the trial, Mr. Manzanares, who now works as a pawnbroker with the firm CashWiz, shared a hug with his pastor and also with his lawyer Keva Reid, who he thanked publicly for “her representation and her belief in me.”
He told the Caymanian Compass, “From the get-go, I have acknowledged that I made a mistake here, I made a moral failure. I feel vindicated that the jury unanimously did not see me as being guilty of an assault.”
He said he now hoped to put the episode in the past.
“I am just trying to rebuild myself spiritually, personally and seek God’s guidance on where and how he wants me to pursue my calling to help my community.”
During the four-day trial, the jury heard evidence from the woman, a former friend and fellow church member of Mr. Manzanares, who claimed he had forced himself on her, rubbing her thigh and fondling her breast even after she told him to stop.
Mr. Manzanares gave evidence in his own defence, accepting that he had kissed the woman, but insisting she kissed him back. He denied ever fondling her and said she gave him no indication that he had “crossed the line.”
Summing up the case, Justice Alex Henderson told the jury that to find Mr. Manzanares guilty they would have to agree beyond reasonable doubt that he had touched the woman in the way she described.
He said they would also have to be satisfied that the defendant had known his advances were unwelcome or at least that he had been reckless, pressing ahead without addressing his mind to the question of whether she was consenting or not.
It took the jury of four women and three men just under three hours to reach a verdict of not guilty.