A Daly City pastor who had been charged with three felony counts of child molestation pleaded no contest Wednesday to a misdemeanor count of false imprisonment which will not require him to register as a sex offender, prosecutors said.
District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said there were serious evidentiary problems with the prosecution’s case against 70-year-old Venije Singkoh, leading the drastically reduced charge.
Singkoh, a pastor at churches in San Francisco and Concord who also held services at his Daly City home, was accused of holding a 9-year-old parishioner on his lap and kissing her inappropriately multiple times between Jan. 1, 2013, and Feb. 7, 2014, according to prosecutors.
The girl told her parents, who arranged a meeting with church members and Singkoh. He denied the allegations but was arrested in August and charged with three felonies.
As the case progressed the number and severity of the charges were significantly whittled down. In December, a judge ruled that Singkoh should only stand trial for one of those three counts, deciding some of the conduct did not fall under “lewd intent.”
In May, Singkoh pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of child annoyance on the condition that he spend no more than 120 days in jail and register as a sex offender, prosecutors said.
But when he returned for sentencing Wednesday, Singkoh moved to withdraw that plea because he had not been informed he would have to register as a sex offender, Wagstaffe said.
Wagstaffe acknowledged there were issues with evidence in the case, and prosecutors agreed to dismiss the charges for a new no contest plea to misdemeanor false imprisonment.
Singkoh’s attorney, Edward Swanson, declined to discuss the specifics of the case but said prosecutors “resolved it in a way that more accurately reflects what the evidence shows.”
Singkoh is scheduled to be sentenced on July 29, Wagstaffe said.