Judge declares mistrial in case of minister accused of beating gay church member
The judge in has declared a mistrial in the case against a minister accused of beating a gay church member.
Judge Gary Gavenus decided to declare the mistrial due to the behaviour of a juror who is being held in contempt.
The juror, Terry Shade, was arrested in the courtroom.
Shade has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine after he investigated the case independently and showed other jury members the material.
A gag order extended to jurors, law enforcement and witnesses has been placed on the case.
58-year-old minister Brook Covington was on trial for charges of kidnap and assault after she was accused of starting a group attack on a gay member of the church.
23-year-old Matthew Fenner claimed that nearly 30 people slapped, punched, choked and screamed at him for nearly two hours in an attempt to “cure his homosexual demons”.
Fenner, who thought he was “going to die” during the attack, has faced several delays in getting the case to trials since the attack in 2013.
Talking to Associated Press, he said that his life was “on hold” until the trial was over.
“You can’t imagine the emotional toll this has taken on my life,” he said. “I can’t do anything until this is over.”
The delays came after the church requested to move the case out of the county, due to years of negative publicity surrounding church practices.
This, as well as a request to have a jury brought in from another area, was refused.
Covington’s trial was the first of five to take place concerning the alleged attack on Fenner.
Earlier this week, before a mistrial was declared, Sarah Anderson admitted to “starting” the mass attack in court.
Anderson, who is one of the five who will have a trial, testified that she told other leaders in the church that she believed Fenner to be “unclean and sinful”.
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After this, the minister of the church, Brooke Covington, allegedly started the two-hour long attack by screaming at Fenner after a service.
Anderson said she then slapped Fenner and Covington and around 30 others joined in, slapping, beating, choking and screaming at the man, who was just 19 at the time, for two hours.
The church, which was founded in 1979, has been exposed for having strict regulations and control over its members.
Those who failed to obey the church faced “humiliating” or “physical” punishment.
The church has come under fire in the past for claiming it has been the victim of “religious bigotry and persecution for several decades”.
It also made headlines in 2012 after a different young gay man claimed he was held against his will in an attempt to “cure” his homosexuality.