Cult leader James Salerno convicted after retrial of repeated sexual abuse of teenage girl


A man who led a group determined to create what he described as the “ideal human environment” has been convicted of sexually abusing a teenage girl in an Adelaide Hills mansion.

James Gino Salerno, 74, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of illegal sex, after being granted a new trial last year, which was held in district court.

Today, the jury took four hours to find him guilty of six counts and not guilty of two.

During the trial, prosecutor Patrick Hill told the jury that Salerno – who was the group’s “revered leader” – sexually assaulted the girl hundreds of times over a five-year period.

“Throughout the period [the alleged victim] and the defendants were living together under a community living arrangement with a number of other people, ”Hill told the court.

“[The group] seems to have been about pooling resources and pursuing business ventures … in search of financial gain.

“One of [the] The main goal has been to reach what he called the “ideal human environment” – or IHE – which claims to be something to do with people living together harmoniously and without conflict.

Salerno, who was known as “Taipan” to his supporters, denied ever having been the leader of the group – repeatedly called a “sect” in the initial trial – and denied all sexual offenses.

His bond has now been revoked and he has been remanded in custody to appear in court for his conviction in November.

The court heard that the group was based on a large estate in the Adelaide Hills, in the former home of Alexander Downer, but that they also spent time between the states, including at El Questro Cattle station in northern Western Australia.

On the Aldgate estate were two main buildings: a two-story stone residence nicknamed “the Manor”, where Salerno lived, and “the Barracks”, which was a two-story dormitory-style accommodation block.

There was a two-way radio communication system between the two buildings.

More soon.

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