Courtroom Drama in Rutherford County (video link)

Rutherford County Courthouse Jan 2013
Courthouse Jan 4, 2013

On Friday, January 4, 2013, in the Rutherford County Courthouse; I was witness to the courtroom drama involving four Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) members and a former member, Jerry Cooper. The case stems from warrants issued after incidents which took place October 16, 2012 in Rutherford County. This case has been reported on this blog. Here is a link to the most recent post about this drama- The Present Drama(s)

Let me first say I was not there for the first motion which the judge granted. That was to bar cameras from the courtroom. This stopped the local television reporter from filming what turned out to be a very long day. I did arrive in time to see several cases dispensed before getting to obviously the main case on the docket- North Carolina vs. Jason Gross, Gilbert Carmona, Chris Hall and Randy Fields. Also, I left at 2:45PM and was not able to stay for the entire proceedings, as it was sometime around 5:00PM when things were wrapped up, so I told. During my time there, I did see Jerry Cooper testify and be cross-examined. Michael Lowry testified for the State and then was crossed examined by Mark Morris with a very few questions. Now, that seemed odd since Mr. Morris was named in the initial complaint in February 2012 filed by Michael Lowry… I am no law scholar but, doesn’t that seem strange?

From here, this post will only contain my opinions and what I observed. It will not be a complete record, as I only took mental notes. There were so many pieces of evidence introduced and at times, combative statements by most all parties; who could remember it all unless they were taping it from inside or outside the courtroom? Getting the transcripts would probably prove very costly.

After Jerry Cooper was called to the stand and before his questioning began; Josh Farmer opened with an explosive shot over the bow. He introduced a motion to quash the proceedings based on what were in his opinion, poorly written, incomplete warrants. He conveyed several jabs (figuratively) toward the magistrate who wrote the warrants saying they were incomplete and did not provide the facts surrounding the incidents which did not give his clients time or the ability to prepare a defense. Looking back, this supposition was not entirely true. In fact, I would call it “lawyer-speak”. As the day wore on and the defense tactics and strategies became evident, it was obvious Josh Farmer and his crews had spent HOURS preparing their defense and were very deliberate in everything they presented. Before the session was finished, there were videos, pictures, maps, and of course the pounding of the State witness;  all of this while the defendants (that I saw) were allowed to ramble on and on in a reflective, seemingly surreal, overly pleasurable and often gushing fashion about the “good life” at WOFF. To me, it seemed par for a much practiced performance. What did I note in the previous post; there is never an open and shut case when WOFF is involved.

There were four lawyers active at the defense table, but only three who were directly representing the defendants. There was one district attorney representing the State, who appeared to be marking pages in a criminal reference manual just before the proceedings and I believe had NO idea of the intense battle she was about to encounter with the WOFF attorney team. Her prep time with Jerry Cooper was maybe twenty minutes in room off to the side of the court. As I reflect on the circus that unfolded, it appeared that neither the judge nor the D.A. had been briefed on past cases involving WOFF and the lengths they will go to in order to defend the reputation of the leader, Jane Whaley and her group. Yes, Jane was there at times, she came in after most were seated and left before the break time and obviously purposed to return to see the afternoon session as I met her on my way out.

Josh Farmer’s efforts were rewarded with the stalking charges being stricken. Odd, as the day went on and the testimony came forth, it was quite OBVIOUS that the members of the WOFF Security Team were proficient and counted it their duty to take pictures and film Jerry Cooper – whether he was on Old Flynn Rd or at the Tri-City Mall where the series of incidents in question took place. Was that stalking when it was away from WOFF property? I know of this tactic as I have been filmed and photographed many times by WOFF folks. Jason Gross even followed me closely when I was leaving the area of the church back in May of 2012. He seemed surprised when I stopped and allowed him to go by and got behind him! Read about that day- here:  Spring Missions Project 2012- Pictures-

As this post could get very lengthy, allow me to summarize with some more observations and provide a video link. In the morning, the State presented their case with Jerry Cooper being the main witness. He was allowed to tell his story and cross-examined by WOFF attorneys. The WOFF defense was two-part. The first part was based on attacking Jerry’s credibility by presenting evidence of previous his ventures down Old Flynn road. These presentations were supported by video and photographs taken by WOFF surveillance cameras. Pictures were also presented which were taken by WOFF members and what seemed like still shots taken from a video of the events on October 16th.

Two points here: if there was a video of the series of events on Old Flynn which were being debated, and if that video was being accurately described by WOFF attorneys with still shot pictures; why was the video not shown in its entirety? What would have been on the video that could not be explained in the favor of WOFF?

Second, since there was evidence allowed supporting Jerry Cooper’s mindset and previous activities; why did the D.A. not introduce evidence showing the previous activities of the WOFF Security Team as already proven in court documents? The case that comes to mind is the McGee case. From the Findings of Fact in case of Bernard McGee, Jr. vs. Pamela McGee- FILE NO. : 00 CVD 0686- in Rutherford County –

58. On the night of the parties separation (April 22nd, 2000), Jamie Dunn, then of the Spindale Police department, observed a van operated by Mike Capistran to being following a vehicle in which the Plaintiff was a passenger at a distance of less than 4 feet.  Jamie Dunn testified that he pulled Capistran over and noted that Capistran had a 2 way radio in his possession.  Jamie Dunn and others testified that they are aware that Capistran is a member ofWOFF.

59. Subsequent to this April date, Mr. Dunn got a second call that a Mr. Wayne Hall, also a member of WOFF, was following the Plaintiff’s mother, Lois McGee.   Mr. Dunn found that Mr. Hall had in fact, pulled his car within close proximity to the vehicle operated  by Lois McGee.

Yes, it was several years ago, however, what evidence is there that the conduct of the WOFF Secuirty Team has changed? I certainly have been treated in similar fashion as recent as May of 2012. The WOFF Security Team does in fact practice intimidation of ex-members on Old Flynn Rd. and away from Old Flynn Rd.

The second part of the WOFF defense strategy was a grandiose retelling of the circumstances involving the incidents on October 16th. This was accomplished methodically and persistently as any one would expect a WOFF attorney to do. When I saw Jeff Cooper carrying a two inch binder – I should have known it was going to be a long day. This was apparently their resource book for photographs and such. I had seen a similar binder technique used by a WOFF member in a recent court appearance- but, with a different outcome. By the time WOFF rested, I was told that their story included Jerry Cooper as the aggressor and Randy Fields as the victim who was “hit” by Mr. Jerry Cooper’s car. If that were the case, where were the medical bills proving injury? Capitalizing on a statement made by the attending officer who by self-admission was over nineteen hours without sleep, WOFF lawyers said that Gilbert Carmona’s van was not close to Jerry Cooper at the Tri-City Mall and in fact did not hinder his freedom of movement. During the session, charges against Chris Hall were dropped and he was released from standing as a defendant. I heard Rodney Moore, the WOFF juror on the first grand jury in the Michael Lowry case which led to Michael’s testimony not being heard in December; Mr. Moore took the stand to confirm Mr. Fields being hit by Jerry’s car. How credible was that?

As mentioned, I did not stay for the duration and missed the closing arguments. I do regret that, however, I did have previous work related obligations and NEVER anticipated this trial to run as long as it did. Who except the WOFF lawyers knew how much defense they would present after realizing the warrants were written so poorly and they did not know the facts surrounding the accusations? After hearing the judge speak something to the effect that any hindrance of a person’s movement could be false imprisonment, I felt like Jerry Cooper may gain some ground. This comment by the judge was before the onslaught of WOFF “evidence” entered after the lunch break. Also, not all comments by the D.A., the attorneys, the witnesses or judge could be heard clearly. I probably missed some important comments or information during the day.

As many know, the charges were dropped and a WOFF rally was soon formed outside the courthouse. In my mind, the entire drama was secondary to the fact that an F.B.I. agent was watching the proceedings. I saw Josh Farmer’s countenance drop as he introduced himself to the F.B.I. agent. Who knows where this will take Michael Lowry’s complaint?  Here is the link to the WLOS story about Friday’s verdict: (you may have to hit your “Back” Button to return to this post)

In conclusion, the fact that Jane Whaley and her WOFF group keep running in and out of court in reference to many different matters says something. The fact that they employ a Security Team to “guard the church”, have cameras running 24/7 and do make intimidating actions toward former members- says something. After being inside and now outside, to me what all of this does not say is –normal. None of the constant drama surrounding WOFF conveys any sense of stability, common sense or true Christian character. While I was inside, I thought I was in the right place. Now, I see that what I gave up to stay was just as or even more costly than what I gave up to leave. The whirlwind of stressful drama that is the signature of WOFF stems from and is reflective of the instability of its leader(s). In this case, the personality and weakness of the leader has entirely shaped the sub-culture of her group. For that, we must take note and warn others. In light of these observations, we see the true “WOFF-gospel”.

Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Comments are invited from all readers, including present or former members. Polls are not scientific and no private information is gathered.

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Please, take time to read the Terms of Use for this personal blog. As mentioned, for posts written by John Huddle, any information about WOFF is from his memories and recollections as perfect as that may be or not be. Scripture references are Amplified Version unless otherwise noted. (Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 420.

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