Jerry Cooper- Not Guilty- Jane Whaley Testifies

In courtroom number one at the Rutherford County courthouse; yet, another drama unfolded Friday pitting Jane Whaley, leader of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) against one of her previously beloved, former members- Jerry Cooper. In 2013, Jane swore out criminal warrants against Jerry for counts of harassment by telephone, and cyberstalking (via text messages). For many reasons, I missed the first half of the proceedings. Upon arrival, I was informed Jane and her team were offered mediation in the morning and promptly refused the option. The case went on to the hearing phase.

Before the noon recess, the opening volleys include four quick objections by Cooper’s attorney, Paul Ditz which were subsequently sustained by Judge Dennis John Redwing. Josh Farmer testified and Jane Whaley took the stand before for about twenty minutes the break for lunch. The courtroom was closed when I arrived about 1:50PM. Jerry and his team were waiting at the door unsure when the proceedings would restart. A few minutes later, the room was opened by the bailiff. She kept conversation going during the wait for the judge’s return.

Again, as in times past, I sat on the right side of a courtroom with a reporter in front of me, advocate to my right and another supporter sitting behind me. Jayne Caulder was so kind to join us on the front row of Jerry’s side. I am not sure why. Jane Whaley and her entourage sat on the left side behind the table for the District Attorney, Roger McCalman. Before the proceedings began there were a few eerie, awkward, mostly silent moments. The clock was high up the far wall to my left and I found myself constantly looking UP and over to avoid any potential eye-locks with the WOFF entourage. My clock watching was motivated by thoughts of returning to work and if today’s matters would be settled by the time I needed to leave.

Once the Judge entered, the attorney for the State called Mrs. Whaley back to the stand. Jane stood in her purple and black outfit with a protective boot on one foot and began her journey forward assisted by Mark Morris. Once seated and properly oriented to the microphone, the State attorney began right where he had ended asking Jane how she felt after receiving messages from Jerry. From here, I may not retell the exact order of events or have exact quotes, but I will tell the highlights and main issues to the case, from my perspective.

Jane lightly and delicately avoided saying she was overrun with fear, she was not frightened, but there was “fear”. For the unlearned, I believed she was not going to admit outright fear because, ‘perfect love casts out all fear’ – a Scripture reference she has preached for years. Jane did not want to be caught OUT of the love of God- even towards Jerry.

During the proceedings, I realized several nuances which those who had been under her preaching or a part of the WOFF-life would understand, but which were for the most part, unknown to others. These nuances in some instances acted as guideposts, fences or walls- depending on your position. I will explain as we go forward.

After McCalman finished, Paul Deitz began his long awaited turn to question Jane. He asked if Jane preached and was ordained. She affirmed she was ordained “at some time in the 80’s.” That was NEWS for me. After sixteen years under Jane’s teaching, preaching and storytelling, I never learned that she was ordained. The obvious question which Ditz missed, WHO ordained Jane? I never knew and expect the answer in Jane’s mind to be – she was ordained-called by God to preach the message of deliverance to anyone who would listen. I regret Paul missed asking the direct question, but it turned out to not be material to his case.

Ditz asked Jane about Jerry being a member and ordained. Jane promptly affirmed he came to get help and was never ordained and never a minister at WOFF. Yes, I about came out of my seat and shouted! The obvious dividing of words and semantics Jane was hiding behind were too much. Jane did qualify her remarks by saying Jerry sang on the praise and worship team, but was never a “minister.” Split hairs to make your next fur coat! How many folks were referred to as ministers inside of WOFF and yet were not ordained by Jane? You could be a ‘minister” and not ordained at WOFF. Who remembers this besides me?

During the questioning by Ditz, he had to constantly implore Jane to NOT ramble on and add to and basically preach her answer only to be shushed by Ditz’s constant admonitions, Ma’am, ma’am, ma’am…?

Paul said, “I ask the questions and you only answer the questions, do you understand?”

Paul’s frustration with being probably the first person in Jane’s world to exercise any control over her mouth –proved intense. Finally, the very patient Judge Redwing confirmed Ditz’s instructions. Sadly, Jane still found it hard to stay restrained and not ramble on and on explaining herself as if her remarks alone were needed to convict Jerry. Any humor in these exchanges quickly expired as Jane’s own glaring lack of self-awareness killed any credibility she attempted to show. Finally, she was among folks impervious to her aura. (Witnessing this one fact by itself made the trip away from work worth it, no matter the cost.)

Paul Ditz had a clear strategy. Establish Jane as a minister, ordained or not, it did not matter. Establish Jerry as a minister, definitely ordained. Show that the exchanges initiated by Jerry were borne out of concern and love for one he used to be close to and in fact, confessed a love for- Jane. In questioning Jane, he asked if she ever preached to someone who did not want her words. At that one moment, the expression on Jane’s face showed she clearly knew where Ditz was headed and she looked defenseless. I hung on every word of her answer to that question. Who can doubt that Jane’s ministry includes preaching to those who do not want to hear her words? As she answered, she hesitated, well, yes, but not beyond what they want… then she trailed off. (Did I remember that right?) Honestly, there was such a screaming in my head of the name– LIAR! I may not have heard the rest of her answer.

Paul was not thrown off his plan, he added, what about someone who agrees for a while with your preaching then has a change of heart? Do you still preach to them? Jane appeared stunned, saying I don’t know where you are coming from. Ditz repeated his question. Dear readers, it was at that moment the air went out of her balloon. Reeling under the burden of being a high paid literalist, Jane was groping to tell “Truth” and not slip into the obvious net Paul laid before her. She never seemed to recover from this deftly pointed arrow. Oh, she tried to ramble and was quickly alerted it would not be tolerated. I can’t say how long her testimony lasted. She exited the witness stand, assisted by Morris walked back to her front row seat. Her expression was stoic and stern, no happy face.

Next, Pricilla Rezende was sworn in and took the stand. She testified about the phone calls Jerry made seeking to reach Jane on a certain day. Pricilla did not ramble. The State attorney opened with some questions. He hung on certain terms or lack of terms throughout the course of each testimony. His job to produce undisputable evidence of a crime was a tall order. When Paul’s turn came he read from notes written by Pricilla about the incidents in question. It was a basic recount from someone whose second language was English. Short, bullet points which alluded to more than she was able to express in writing. The main point Ditz drilled with Pricilla was since she never engaged Jerry in a lengthy conversation, she had no way to properly judge his intentions or motives. She adamantly held her ground that Jerry was attacking, not satisfied with her answers and had malicious intent.

Here, Paul may have known and chose not to pursue it, but every present member of WOFF is perpetually conditioned to believe that all those who have left have evil intentions, to destroy the church calling them “attackers.” Pricilla was already prejudiced against Jerry by the environment she lived in. She was able to strongly defend her opinions of Jerry in the light of Paul’s clever questions because she believed her prejudices despite the logic Ditz laid out before her. Her chance to learn about one of the main errors of her culture may have passed her by- forever. Though, I hope not. On her stroll back to her seat, she passed Jane glancing to her for a look of approval- finding none. I believe Jane was still reeling and unable to confirm her employee’s efforts.

The State called Holly Morris to the stand. Honestly, I did not recognize her. She smiled profusely, completed the swearing in process and took her seat. She stated her name and that she was present during the time of the calls from Jerry. During this brief exchange, it was pointed out to me you could see the arteries in Holly’s neck pulsing. She was on high alert with a rapid heart rate. No surprise, right?

At that moment, the proceedings stopped each counsel was called to the bench. Holly was instructed to step down. She floated back to her seat in a state of obvious relief still smiling profusely.

After a short conference, counsel returned to their tables, Ditz asked to dismiss the charges. The judge agreed to dismiss the harassment charges but continue on the cyber stalking charges. Jerry was then called to the stand. He was sworn in and took his seat, again properly adjusting to be heard and seen by the judge.

Ditz began by establishing Jerry’s status as a minister and then his time at WOFF. Jerry said he preached and sang as a minster at WOFF. Who during his first tour of WOFF could deny this? Do we remember his message- Faith is NOW, from Hebrews 11? And how many times did Jane have him sing- Thank you, for Giving to the Lord? If he was not a minister, then at least the regular members never knew the difference, right?

Jerry appeared to concentrate at times as he was also a literalist during his WOFF days. Each word spoken means something. Today, each word meant a lot. Jerry’s testimony lasted a while. I cannot remember it all. Highlights include his statements of affection for Jane and his desire to see her stop the controlling behaviors over her members. The bulk of the testimony included the fact that much of the content of the text messages included Scripture or biblical references. Much was made over Jerry calling Jane a Jezebel and committing adultery. Jerry cleared up his intentions were to reference the spirit of Jezebel and spiritual adultery and not actual physical act of adultery. Jerry came off as believable and not in angst over not being allowed to ramble and preach his answers. At several points, he looked at his attorney for clues to know if he could proceed or needed to stop. He had less trouble expressing his intentions about the events in question.

To the credit of the State attorney, he did point out Jerry’s confessed lack of memory the content of certain text messages and of the events January of 2010(?). There was no physical evidence of Josh Farmer’s warnings to stay away from WOFF at that time. If there had been, it would have been entered into court today. There was also a lot made of Jerry’s request through Josh Farmer as attorney for WOFF, for Michael Lowry as a reunited member inside WOFF in February 2013, to be reimbursed for the support during his time in Jerry’s care. Ditz was able to settle the dust some and establish a trail of logic which supported Jerry’s unmet request and recast it as non-threatening event.

During Jerry’s testimony, I was clock watching, attempting to determine if I needed to exit back to my work in a town about an hour away. When Jerry was told to step down and return to his seat, the time seemed to slow down, slower than a snail’s crawl. Each minute passed as if an hour, during the time the Judge called for the warrant and appeared engrossed in reviewing documents. Between 3:25PM and about 3:35PM, I believe the entire WOFF delegation renewed their long lost affection for silent prayer. The air on my side of the room was flooded with hopes for justice.

As if sunshine bursting through a thick cloud, the judge uttered words to the effect the State has not proved the greater weight of the evidence. Jerry was declared not guilty! Just as the judge began his closing remarks, the ever attentive bailiff made her way to our area. Once the decision was known, she motioned for the WOFF side to remain seated and allowed Jerry, his attorney and the few supporters to exit first. We were allowed an escorted free pass without any chance of a WOFF connection, out of the building and were watched carefully as we made our way to our cars. The air seemed light and the spontaneous expressions jubilant! The strategy of Paul Ditz had proven effective and conclusive. What a day!

As in every courtroom in Rutherford County’s courthouse, it was difficult to hear at times and if I missed or misquoted any part of this proceeding, it was not intentional. See rcCatalyst story about today- here .

Jean Gordon of the Daily Courier posted more details of the testimony- here. (updated 5/31/15-11:35AM)

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Scripture references are Amplified Version unless otherwise noted. (Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 518.

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13 thoughts on “Jerry Cooper- Not Guilty- Jane Whaley Testifies”

  1. Jerry,
    Thank you, Jerry for allowing the process to play out and being so transparent during the proceeding. One thing I missed was pointing out the genius in Paul’s closing remarks. He framed the text messages as being between two ministers, one reaching out to another whom he felt was going down the wrong path. He moved the whole body of activity into the realm of freedom of expression due each of us and pointing out both parties had equal abilities to speak when the hearer may not welcome the message. What is good for the goose, is good for the gander or vise verse, as the case may be. If Jane practiced preaching when others may not want to hear her words, she should not be so sensitive, cry FOUL! or rebuff others the same privilege when it comes to preaching to her! Pure brilliance.

    John

  2. And one glaring question for Friday- WHERE was Karel Reynolds? Word I had- she was served to appear…. and she was never called to the stand. Holly was the pinch hitter and we see how that ended.

  3. So now after all these years, there is some form of justice? Is this a smoke screen or a different court room? Maybe both, this is new for Jane, will this ruin the career of the ones representing her? Hey Kids, you need to review today, and consider. Jane wins in family court! this is criminal court where the marks of proof are very different. What Family court allows, Criminal court does not. Was this a trial run to see who runs this court, and can it be swayed by anything, and if so what? Maybe they need a little experience in this court so they can make sure they are better prepared for the next trials that are coming.

    Wonder if the accused in the next session are now nervous? who knows? I would be and if this were me, I would roll over on those that influenced me (even if that was an adopted mother) to get leniency to make sure either way.

    Thankful that Jerry won, and find it interesting that when Jane testifies charges are dismissed, for a million reasons, but again glad that there is some accountability.

  4. John!

    Thank you once again for an excellent piece of jounalism. I am wondering how this apparently unsuccesful “counter attack” will be explained away to the faithfull of the flock. How Jesus clearly instructed the “hearing Jesus perfectly in every situation” Mrs. Whaley to file charges against Mr. Cooper. That this was for the good of the church. (Perhaps to prepare for further persecution and future jail time for certain members?)

    Arthur

  5. Arthur,

    Thank you, for reading and commenting. I have no idea how this will be explained away– but, some how the devil in someone or some thing will get the blame. It will not be because of anything JW did or didn’t do… like follow the rules of the court? It is hard to describe and convey the reality of how totally self-absorbed she appeared during her time on the stand. It was similar to a child continually talking and demanding to be heard. Do you think that happens any where else? It is actually an indication of deeper issues, agree?
    John

  6. Cheryl,

    Yes, this courtroom drama should make the indicted WOFFers reconsider their position. Will any of them roll? Remains to be seen in this “Summer of Decision”. There are many in the valley of decision- forced there by the antics of their leader and their willingness to follow her lead.

    John

  7. Hi John!
    I, like Mrs. Whaley, have a hard time keeping my mouth shut and must comment again. When Sam and Jane moved home to Spindale from Tulsa (I don’t recall the exact year…Sam was the minister back in the day, they were still under Kenneth Hagin….the break with the Word of Faith movement didn’t come until later….maybe 89 when Jane cried out against Benny Hinn as a false minister…which of course was a right call.) However the shepherding movement ideas caught hold of Jane in the early 90’s. The WOFF bible school became a life time commitment! No one was ever ready to go out in the world and do ministry. Everyone was walking in iniquity, full of devils, not hearing God etc….with the exception of Jane! 25 years have passed by! By the description of the proceedings it appears that the current perception of reality within Jane’s mind and what is common sense differ tremendously. Why didn’t Frank Webster say “Jane, I love you. There is no way you can win this”. Or Josh or one of the others trained in court proceedings. I think immediately of the children’s fable ” the Emperor’s New Clothes”. Is there no one in the church that can assist her when she is obviously unable to use correct discernment? Is every one in fear? Or is the financial gain of being in leadership so great that no one is willing to step up and say anything that would jeopardize their position within the Church? Who was there from leadership? Thank you again for wonderful journalism. I am truly grateful that the groundless charges were worthless in a court. The whole situation leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Arthur

  8. Arthur,
    Thank you for your reflections and questions. The story was told to me that Frank and Josh have warned Jane about the continued physical abuses. They did this within the last six months. Just how effective their please were- time will tell. I did not hear if they counseled her on this case. There are more questions than answers right now. I understand Ray reads these posts– Ray, can you help us out here?
    John

  9. Not expecting Ray to answer but personally I would love to do my Phd. dissertation on the socialogical implications of WOFF’s practices of delivererance in relation to animistic practice in western Africa. This would of course require qualitative interviews. I am ready but not sure that the church is open for academic study. Of course as a displaced native american I would look into the slavery traditions in the area. I am a Broad. Jane is a Brock. This is a gold mine when it comes to anthropoligical research. Arthur

  10. I must admit, John that I have read this blog every day since Friday…twice on Sunday. Again, I am still overwhelmed with gratitude first to the Lord…but so much for my attorney, Paul Ditz as well and for all those who supported me during this time.

    The victory on Friday was not just a victory for me. God knows the harrassment and continued lies and slander I have experienced over the years since leaving WOFF. But Friday was for all the hundreds that have left WOFF over the years that will never have a day in court. It was for the thousands of family members who still have loved ones trapped inside WOFF. It was for those who have escaped from WOFF and had to begin their lives all over in a world they had never experienced.

    Several years ago I gave my word to several former members (I will not name them) that I would continue the fight for those who could not fight for themselves and when possible I would be their voice. I thought that fight for me was over 2 years ago. But then the resent lawsuit filed against me by 2 WOFF members and Jane’s outlandish charges showed me I still have a place in this fight.

    So, I will again be in court in Rutherford County in January 2016…and again I pray justice prevails. In the mean time…my life goes on and I will rarely think of WOFF and all that I suffered at their hands. And, like I said in court, I will continue to pray that somehow Jane will acknowledge all that she has done over the years that has caused so much pain in so many lives…and that she will be able to make it right with her Creator…before it’s too late.

  11. Jerry,

    I am happy for you and all the rest of those who will benefit from this decision. I should not be shocked, but I just learned that the regular WOFF members were not told of the case against you before Friday. Why does that fact seem odd? I forget the levels of information control inside that group. One has to wonder if JW mentioned it on Sunday? If so, how did she spin the fact that the case is over before many even knew to “pray” about it? Hmmm…

    John

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