June 6th- The Matthew Fenner Case Returns to Court

After months of delays prompted by pre-trial motions, appeals and more motions, the Matthew Fenner case is set for hearing on June 6th at 9:30AM in the Rutherford County courthouse. Rccatalyst.com reported on April 13th concerning the next hearing. Also, during April, Rccatalyst.com reported the motion for Judge Marvin Pope to continue on as judge for this case, as well as Judge Pope’s April12th order for attorney Angela Beeker’s release from her representation of Brooke Covington, Justin Covington and Sarah Anderson.

The pending trial surrounds alleged incidents from January 27, 2013 wherein Matthew Fenner states he was held against his will, physically assaulted and strangled during a “deliverance” session in the sanctuary of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF). The “loud prayer” and “deliverance” has been for years the signature practice of WOFF, which has many other socially obtuse practices surrounding controls the leader, Jane Whaley, exerts over her members. Five church members have been indicted with charges including second degree kidnapping, simple assault and assault by strangulation. These members are Brooke Covington, Justin Covington, Sarah Covington Anderson, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley.

Pre-trial activities included a plea offered to Adam Bartley which he informally turned down and which was later formally withdrawn by Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers. Mr. Bartley is no longer a member of WOFF and has had additional legal troubles concerning charges in Union County.

In August of 2015, Judge Pope ruled to disqualify WOFF-affiliated attorneys Joshua Farmer, Mark Morris and their associates from representing any of the five defendants. After seeking a review in Pope’s court and finding no relief, this ORDER was appealed by Farmer to the NC Court of Appeals where it waited for review. During the judicial delay, Sarah C. Anderson exited the confines of WOFF and acquired Jeffrey Cooper and Benjamin Cooper as her counsel. The Coopers are related to Ms. Anderson. Ms. Anderson has also been engaged in a custody battle with her husband, Nick Anderson who remains in WOFF.

Ms. Anderson’s exit from WOFF and subsequent change of counsel prompted Farmer to withdraw his Appeal and thus requiring Brooke Covington and Justin Covington to acquire new counsel. As of this date, it is not clear if a Notice of Appearance for new counsel has been filed for either Brooke or Justin.

It appears there will be five defendants, five different attorneys and who knows how many trials or hearings to follow. This summer will be interesting as the temperatures rise outside and inside the courtroom.

This case drew national attention centered on Matthew’s claims of being assaulted because he was gay. No doubt the media attention will again rev up as soon as the doors open for the hearing in June. As reported by Rccatalyst.com, the motions set for hearing include the following:

– The dissolving of the Stay imposed upon the prosecution of these cases by Judge Pope
– The status of counsel for Brooke Covington, Justin Covington and Sarah Anderson
– The State’s motion that Judge Marvin Pope be assigned to preside over all these cases in the Superior Court Division

Other pre-trial motions will be calendared for hearing at a future date with proper notice to all parties.

This means the pre-trial motions for Change of Venue (court) and Change of Venire (jury pool) will not be heard on June 6th.
change of venue request
Motion for Change of Venire

As we refocus on the trial to come, we need to remember it is more than five individuals on trial for felony assault charges. The ministry of Jane Whaley, the extreme loyalty she demands from her members and the entire WOFF culture are under examination and in effect “on trial.” As a former member of WOFF, I admit I harbor mixed emotions about the months ahead. On the one hand, it will be fascinating to watch the maneuvering, posturing and outright squirming (lying) which is bound to occur inside of WOFF as the media attention ramps up to WARP speed. My observations confirm that outside pressures change inside group dynamics, but not their beliefs. WOFF members will actually benefit from the media attention since some outrageous group controls will be lessened for a time. This is good.

The sad part will be the many members who will struggle to find out the real Truth about the events in question and will be denied free access to the press including this blog. Jane has predicted that many will “leave the will of God” this year. She wants to be ahead of the curve on the potential mass exodus from her confines as the months unfold. Is this one instance, I hope and believe she is right. No matter how hard she tries, access to the media will be impossible to control totally. In years past, she has depended on submission to her demands prompted by her declarations that violators will “go to hell” and “miss God’s will.” These warnings will not be enough to satisfy the hunger of her members.

Sad, but glad. I am sad to know the emotional roller coaster coming for members, but glad that many will ride the roller coaster to freedom and begin living their life apart from the wacky-Whaley-world known as WOFF. Jump in the seat, strap yourself in and hang-on! Better days are ahead!

2016- The Year for Changes!

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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. Jane told me and Josh confirmed it.

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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 566.

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