Summary of Events for Week of 9/4/2015 (Court docs)

This past week included disclosure of documents outlining several events in the Matthew Fenner case. As a review, five defendants from the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) were indicted earlier this year on several charges including felony assault and second degree kidnapping stemming from events on January 27, 2013. The five defendants include Brooke M. Covington, Justin B. Covington, Sarah Covington Anderson, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley.

Pre-trial events have included a show stopping disqualification of Joshua Farmer, Mark Morris, Andrea Farmer of Tomblin, Farmer & Morris (TFM) and their associates from representing any of the five defendants. Judge Marvin Pope issued the order on August 6th and also confirmed his Order after a hearing on August 27th. During the August 27th session, attorney Angela Beeker argued the case against disqualification on behalf of TFM. This disqualification came into focus after TFM refused to present Adam Bartley with a plea deal offered by Assistant District Attorney, Garland Byers. In a hand written refusal of the plea, Bartley said, “…I did nothing wrong.” Adam Bartley and Robert L. Walker, Jr, each have secured separate counsel from TFM. Mr. Bartley’s attorney is Robert Denton and Robert Walker’s attorney is Matthew Cabe. Both of these attorneys have their office in Morganton.

This is where we pick up our summary of this week. In court documents, a letter dated August 25th from Bartley’s counsel,in response to the previously reported Motion to Revoke Bond, Robert Denton included these words in regards to the Motion for his client,

“I am saddened to receive the same (motion) and had hoped to have a more professional relationship with you…Do you really intend to tell the Judge that it is a coincidence that approximately a week after he turned your plea down that you decided to file a motion to revoke his bond?… You may want to consult the Rules of Professional Conduct on a prosecutor abusing his calendaring authority for these types of shenanigans. …As you know I do not even have discovery in the case… It seems to me that you are taking this case very personally… I would request you withdraw your motion and we discuss your concerns over the phone…If these are the types of games you play… Perhaps you should recuse yourself from this case?”
(use the BACK ARROW to return to this post)
Denton letter to Byers

I understand the term “discovery” here to be the process where a defendant’s attorney is allowed to review the Prosecutor’s evidence against his client. This is to allow for a more fair and adequate counseling of the defendant.

On August 26th, Byers did file a “Notice of Withdrawal of Motion to Revoke Bond for Mr. Bartley. Key points in the Motion include the following (paraphrased). Mr. Denton first appeared as counsel for Bartley on August 3rd. August 25th was the first written communication from Denton to the State on behalf of his defendant. TFM’s attachment of the handwritten document supposing to be a rejection of the plea DID NOT have Denton’s signature and therefore the State “did not believe the rejection to be valid.” Denton admits in his letter, “As you know, I do not even have discovery in this case.” How could he “properly advise his client on whether he should accept or reject the State’s plea offer”?
Notice to Withdraw Motion to Revoke Bond

(for WOFF members, Bartley was not “Locked in.”)

Byers then outlines the steps he believes should occur BEFORE Denton could advise Bartley. “(1) review the discovery (evidence); (2) meet with his client and discuss the information. (3) conduct his own investigation on behalf of the defendant; before he could effectively (4) advise his client on a course of action in regards to the State’s plea offer.”

Also, a point was made that Byers came on the case a full three months after the indictments and “only after conferring with District Attorney Ted bell did he learn that he original pre-trial conditions were to remain in effect even with the second round of indictments.” However, the State reserves the right to bring the issues of the defendant’s pretrial release before the Court as permitted…”

Yes, folks, this tells us the plea offer can still be accepted and/or negotiated. It also begs the question- WHO counseled Bartley to submit to TFM a handwritten informal rejection WITHOUT Denton’s signature? We may never know, but have to wonder if TFM had their hand in the handwritten rejection AFTER they were disqualified and was it with Denton’s blessing?

Another series of documents in the court file this week surrounded the request from Assistant District Attorney Byers to Angela Beeker for her to withdraw from the case. In a letter dated August 31st, he cited “We believe that you have the same conflict (as the disqualified Attorneys with TFM) in that you represent the same three defendants currently.”
Byers Letter to Beeker

Beeker’s reply states, “I have no plans to withdraw at this time, and I believe that this matter should be taken up with the Court on September 21, 2015 as you suggested.”
Beeker refusal to withdraw

This refusal prompted Byers to file a “Second Motion to Disqualify Counsel” in order to require Beeker to withdraw from representing the three remaining WOFF defendants- Brooke Covington, Justin Covington and Sarah Anderson. Included in this Second Motion is a recap of the events leading to this impasse. From the Motion, (paraphrased) TFM filed several documents after being disqualified on August 6th. Angela Beeker signed these documents “and in doing so, entered a formal and unlimited appearance on behalf of the defendant’s in the trial division.” She appeared on August 27th on behalf of the named defendants. “Attorney Beeker has the Same Conflict on Disqualified Counsel” “The State’s Motion to Disqualify Counsel was not targeted at disqualified counsel individually, but rather at the situation – – that is: the representation by one Firm of more than on defendant in this action. Thus, the State argues that the same logic applies: if Farmer and Morris and their associates are disqualified, then Attorney Beeker should be as well…”
2nd motion to disqualify

The motion goes on to point out that Josh Farmer presented to the court that TFM had “…associated Ms. Beeker to assist in the Motion for Reconsideration and handle the appeal.” TFM and their associates were disqualified. Sounds like an open and shut case, don’t you think? The Motion goes on the quote case law supporting the position stating, “Retrying this issue is thus barred by the foregoing authorities and principles of law.”

Whew, what does all this mean? Well, I am no expert, but it sounds like we are about to be treated to another day of useless defenses presented by Beeker. Or, is she just covering for a time until the three defendants can secure their own counsel and allow Beeker to withdraw? Is Beeker risking her reputation as a stall technique? High price to pay, I would say.

On September 2nd, there was a Motion for Assignment of Judge filed in this case. This Motion asks that Judge Pope “be assigned to preside over all matters in each of the above-captioned cases, up to and including the trial on merits in each case.”

The State points out that “There have been several hearings in these matters which involved the taking of testimony, rulings on evidence consideration of appellate cases and consideration of authorities…It would be virtually impossible for another Judge to come in and preside over these cases and understand the dynamics of each particular case and the various contentions and positions of the parties at the same level as Judge Pope…”
Motion to Assign Pope as Judge throughout

To which anyone with any sense would agree… So, for now, on September 21st, the change of venue and change of venire will not be heard, but the Second Motion for Disqualification and the Motion of Assignment of Judge will be heard. There are several days before the 21st, we are sure to have more documents filed on some issue for this case before then. Stay tuned and check back often for updates and observations in this ongoing saga.
Notice of hearing in Sept 21
Season for Changes rolls on…

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2 thoughts on “Summary of Events for Week of 9/4/2015 (Court docs)”

  1. Thank you once again for a timely update. I see things playing out along the lines I thought they would. I do hope the defendents find other counsel soon. The plea bargain for non-felony charges is still out there from what I understand from these documents. Came across a box of old tapes from WOFF ministries. Some are from the old building! Oh how times have changed. Young people coming from all over to attend Ministry school but never graduating or being sent out. Good people coming and having to flee in the middle of the night as this was the only option to escape. Has the judge been able to see and hear groaning and blasting prayer first hand yet? If he hasn’t I guess he’s in for an interesting experience! (On the tape named “Groaning brings deliverance” Jane states clearly that “when demons hear me pray they either come out or take the person out of the building”! If you actually believe this of course you restrain people from making a run for it. It is just their devils wanting to stay in their home!). Am very much looking forward to the publication of your coming book.

  2. Arthur,

    Thank you, for the encouragement. You raise a great question. In the early sessions surrounding the subpoena, Mr. Byers was probing to find video of “powerful prayer.” It follows simple reasoning that at some point, the question of “What does loud prayer look like?” will need to be answered in open court. That my friend will be a session to remember. Even the wranglings to get to that point will prove interesting. Last year, during the Mind Control Forum- the greatest public interest was demonstrated when a few ex-members demonstrated loud prayer. It brought some folks out of their seat! I can only imagine a jury on the edge their seats when the subject is introduced… The anticipation grows.

    September 21st is the release date for “Locked in”.

    John

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