A Florida man accused of molesting a 3-year-old girl inside a church has reportedly blamed anime and manga for his behavior.
Justin Hughes, 31, allegedly attacked the toddler in a utility closet at Victory Chapel Christian Church in Jacksonville on Jan. 30.
Hughes, an Uber driver, was arrested the following day. He was charged with lewd and lascivious molestation by an offender 18 or older against a victim less than 12 years old.
According to Action News Jax, an unredacted arrest report states that an assistant pastor “reviewed the surveillance video and saw Justin Hughes (suspect) coax the victim into a utility closet at 21:06 and [that] the victim and suspect exited the closet” some 15 minutes later.
Hughes, who appeared “distraught and in a rush to be in handcuffs,” later warned an officer against anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese graphic novel), suggesting that they were responsible for his actions.
“Do you have children? If you do, keep them away from Anime and Manga (Japanese graphic novel). They’re perverted and sick, I am an idiot.”
The news apparently rattled church members.
“You instantly kind of freak out,” a mother told Action News Jax. “But then, you’re also like, there’s no way that that can be happening. There’s no way that that would happen, especially of all places in a church.”
While the charge against Hughes is unrelated to an Uber trip, the company released a statement saying:
- All drivers go through a background screening that includes both a criminal and motor vehicle check.
- We received a notification of his arrest/charges through our continuous monitoring system and removed his access to the app.
- Uber has invested in new technology and partnerships to receive notification whenever a driver is potentially involved in a new criminal offense.
- Our teams review each flagged offense to determine whether the driver continues to meet Uber’s safety standards.
- We are the only company in our industry using this type of technology.
Hughes’ offense constitutes a life felony under Florida’s statutes. He returns to court on Thursday.