A mistrial has been declared in the trial of the first of five members of a North Carolina church accused of kidnapping and beating a gay man in 2013.
In January of 2013, Brooke Covington led some of her parishioners in an assault on Matthew Fenner. Covington, who is a minister at the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina, faced up to two years in jail for the kidnapping and assault charges.
Fenner, who is now 23 years old, says he was leaving prayer service on January 27th, 2013, when nearly two dozen church members surrounded him. They began hitting him, choking him, and screaming at him for two hours in an effort to drive out his “homosexual demons”. Fenner had joined the church in 2010 with his brother and his mother, but left after the attack.
The Associated Press conducted an investigation into the church and found through interviews with 43 former members, as well as recordings of conversations, that congregants of the church were regularly beaten, screamed at, choked, and even thrown through walls to purify them of demons. So now we know what it would look like if the WWE started its own church.
Covington’s trial began on May 30th, and she is the first of the accused church members to face trial. If convicted, she could serve up to two years in prison for the assault on Fenner.
Yesterday, a week into the trial, the judge in the case, Gary Gavenus, held a juror in contempt and declared a mistrial in the case. The juror, Terry Shade Jr., had brought in a law document not relevant to the charges against Covington.
Gavenus immediately ordered Shade to be put under arrest. Shade will serve 30 days in jail and have to pay a $500 fine. Covington, meanwhile, is free to go, at least for now.
Details on what exactly the juror brought in or why he did it have not been released yet, but it is unfortunate that because of this Covington will avoid justice, at least for now. With the AP’s investigation revealing that it was a regular church practice to assault members it becomes all the more important to keep Covington from hurting anyone else. Now, I cannot say for sure, but I would not be surprised if Covington attributes the mistrial verdict as “divine intervention” in her dangerously warped sense of reality. As with most religious explanations, however, the real answer is much simpler: someone screwed up.