RUTHERFORDTON, N.C. (AP) — A juror who was arrested during the trial of a North Carolina minister charged with beating a gay congregant made a mistake by taking unauthorized documents to court and was not trying to influence the outcome of the trial, his son said Wednesday.
The jury was in its second day of deliberations Tuesday in the trial of Brooke Covington, 58, a longtime minister at Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina, when juror Perry Shade Jr., 71, was charged with contempt.
A retrial has been scheduled for the two-week court term beginning July 17. The case was part of an ongoing, two-year investigation into abuse of Word of Faith Fellowship congregants by church leaders by The Associated Press.
Throughout the trial, Judge Gary Gavenus warned jurors not to do their own research.
Gavenus declared a mistrial and sentenced Shade to 30 days in jail and $500 fine.
Shade’s son, Chris Shade, said in messages to The Associated Press on Wednesday that his father isn’t affiliated with the church. He said his father likes to do research and “just made a mistake.”
Asked Wednesday if his office will investigative Shade’s actions, District Attorney Ted Bell said he couldn’t comment due to a gag order.
Gavenus issued an order that prevents the attorneys, witnesses and jurors from discussing the case. Any violation could result in contempt charges. The documents Shade brought to court were filed under seal and not open to the public.
The judge said some of the material Shade shared with other jurors was outdated case law related to the state’s kidnapping statute.
It’s not clear what else Shade brought, or whether he was leaning toward conviction or acquittal.
One juror reached by phone Wednesday told AP he was under court order not to discuss the case. Numerous others did not respond to messages.
Shade retired about a decade ago from the PPG Industries facility in Shelby, where he worked as a supervisor. His wife of 51 years died in March.
Shade said during jury selection that he had once been represented by Covington’s defense lawyer, David Teddy, though he didn’t elaborate. Prosecutors and Teddy allowed Shade to be on the jury.
Covington was the first of five people to face trial on charges of assaulting and kidnapping Matthew Fenner. She faces two years in prison if convicted. Each defendant is being tried separately.
Fenner, 23, said he was leaving a prayer service Jan. 27, 2013, when nearly two dozen people surrounded him in the sanctuary. He said they slapped, punched, choked and blasted him — a church practice that involves intense screaming — for two hours as they tried to expel his “homosexual demons.”
As part of the AP’s investigation, reporters interviewed 43 former church members about abuse inside the church, including four who said they witnessed Fenner’s assault.
Shade was the second person jailed Tuesday during the trial.
Chad Metcalf, 35, who had a court hearing Tuesday for an unrelated traffic violation, was charged with harassing a juror, which Shade reported to the judge before his own arrest. Metcalf’s mother told AP her son is not affiliated with Word of Faith Fellowship and was probably joking if he made a comment to the jurors that they should reach a verdict.
Questions remain about how Shade was able to get the documents in the jury room. The AP covered the proceedings. Shade didn’t openly carry the documents when he entered the jury room Tuesday morning or after a lunch break.
Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report. Mohr reported from Jackson, Mississippi.
Read more of AP’s investigation of the Word of Faith Fellowship here: http://apne.ws/2lmuzDA
The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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