Joliet Sex Cult Leader's 'Princess Margarita' Sentenced

Psychologists said ex-newspaperman John Gabriel groomed his much-younger girlfriend and had control over her., Illinois/July 20, 2018

By John Ferak

Joilet, Illinois — It's been six years since the Joliet sex cult escapades involving 76-year-old weekly newspaperman John Gabriel and his then-32-year-old girlfriend Margarita Hernandez came to light. This week, Hernandez, accused of meeting up with a 15-year-old boy for sex, entered a guilty plea to charges she solicited a child. Instead of additional jail time, she received probation and was given credit for time already served.

In 2015, Gabriel was found guilty of federal child pornography charges for inducing and enticing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for purposes of making child pornography. He got 15 years in the federal prison system.

This week, Hernandez, now 38, was sentenced at the Will County Courthouse to two years of probation as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

On Tuesday, Hernandez appeared in court with her lawyers Steven Landis and Daniel Locallo to enter her plea of guilt to the crime of solicitation to meet a child, a Class 4 felony. In addition to probation, she was given credit for previous time she served in jail, which was about a week.

Will County State's Attorney's spokesman Chuck Pelkie told the Joliet Herald-News this week that one of the psychologists involved in the case issued a report concluding that Gabriel, now 82, had groomed Hernandez for many years and that Gabriel had gained mental control over her.

"It was a report that would have been very difficult to refute. It was by a credible psychologist," Pelkie told the daily newspaper.

According to previous Joliet Patch articles, Hernandez was charged on October 4, 2012 with setting up a sex date with a 15-year-old Chicago boy during a prearranged July meeting at her home. Hernandez shared that home with Gabriel, the veteran local weekly newspaperman. Both Gabriel and Hernandez were also precinct committeemen for the Troy Township Democrats.

According to another Patch article, federal agents found a 2002 letter sent to "Princess Margarita" from a "priestess" named "Di." The letter was actually penned by Gabriel, according to the feds. Prosecutors accused Gabriel of "brainwashing" various youths and women he allegedly bamboozled with his elaborate fantasy sex world.

"This is—this is a cult, what it really comes down," federal prosecutors remarked in 2015.

Court records indicate Hernandez lives in the 6900 block of Monmouth Drive.

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