Minister guilty
of abusing girl

Clifford Coffman gets 10 years
for assaulting a member
of his former congregation

Star-Bulletin staff

The founder and longtime pastor of an Ewa Beach church has been convicted of sexually abusing a young girl who was a member of his congregation.

Clifford Coffman of the now-dissolved Rainbow Grace Brethren Church was sentenced this week to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of second-degree sexual assault and three counts of third-degree sexual assault.

Coffman founded the Rainbow church in the late 1970s, after becoming pastor of the Waimalu Grace Brethren Church in 1971.

According to a complaint filed in the case, the 63-year-old Coffman performed oral sex on the girl, an Ewa Beach resident whom a deputy prosecutor said was 9 or 10 years old at the time.

He also touched the girl on her genitals and placed her hand on his, the complaint says.

Deputy Prosecutor Michael Parrish said the incidents probably occurred in 1994, with specific dates difficult to pin down since the victim was a child. They arose on different days and were not confined to a single act, he said.

"Basically the guy was a pastor, and after Sunday services the children from the congregation would go to his house while the parents continued with either Bible study or some other church functions," he said. "And the offenses occured while the children, the victim included, were at his house under his supervision."

Parrish said the girl reported the incidents to a family member, and the family -- after initiating "like an investigation of their own through the church" -- went to the police in July 1994.

The prosecutor's office decided to enter into a plea agreement partly to spare the victim the ordeal of having to testify in court, Parrish said.

Coffman had been charged with first-degree sexual assault, which carries a 20-year maximum penalty.

As part of an agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded no contest to the reduced charge and was found guilty by Circuit Judge James Aiona Jr.

He was sentenced to concurrent five-year prison terms. Coffman began serving his sentence Tuesday at the Halawa Correctional Facility, the state Public Safety Department said.

Defense attorney Cheryl Brawley yesterday declined to discuss the case.

The church last year reorganized under a different name but uses the same Fort Weaver Road facilities. Its interim pastor is John Alejado.

Arleen Alejado, speaking on behalf of her husband, said Coffman was removed from office two days after the police report was made, and the church was dissolved about a year later, she said.

When asked if the church conducted an internal investigation, she said, "We did question the girls, so I guess you could call it an investigation. He was confronted by the elders of the church, and at that point in time, after being questioned, he admitted to certain -- what shall I say -- immoral acts with minors."

Alejado said the complaint names only one victim since the girl was the only one willing to testify. Parrish declined to discuss the allegations.

Alejado said the Rainbow church had about 60 members, and the reorganized church, which started last year, now has a congregation of about 20 people.

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