Cult leader James Salerno wins retrial over alleged sexual abuse of teenage member

ABC News, Australia/June 5, 2020

The leader of a cult that was once based in the Adelaide Hills has won an appeal and will face a second trial over allegations he sexually abused a teenage member of the group.

James Gino Salerno was last year sentenced to 10 years' jail with a non-parole period of eight years for abusing the girl over a two-and-a-half-year period while the cult resided at a mansion at Aldgate.

He was found guilty at trial of eight counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a child.

But the 73-year-old — known as Taipan by his followers — appealed against his conviction in the Court of Criminal Appeal, which today overturned his conviction and ordered a retrial.

He was then released on bail.

The reasons for allowing Salerno's appeal are yet to be made public.

After the sentence was handed down, the victim — who cannot be identified for legal reasons — told the ABC she felt "justice has been served".

During the trial, the court heard Salerno operated the cult from a historic mansion at Aldgate in the Adelaide Hills, before the group relocated to Queensland and later to Western Australia.

The group was based around Salerno's desire to create "the ideal human environment".

The mansion was the childhood home of former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer.

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