Tag Archives: Matthew Fenner

A Week of New Court Dates, Disappointment and Sorrow

Professional and personal commitments kept me from posting updates about the Matthew Fenner case this past week. Rccatalyst.com has been one of the sources carrying updates. As a recap; June 10th – Judge Marvin Pope opened matters with setting June 20th for a deadline for pre-trial motions in the State versus Brooke Covington trial. He required any such motions be heard in Buncombe County on July 7th. The exception for that date was a Change of Venue Motion for which a separate date would be announced.

Attorney David Teddy filed a Motion for Continuance citing his preplanned vacation to Ireland during July and the necessity of reviewing transcripts from the first trial adding the expedited costs would run around $5,000. Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers said the Rule for such declaring reasons for a Continuance had not been properly met.

The result so far includes the latest date for trial in the State of North Carolina versus Brooke Covington is now set for September 11, 2017. I don’t know yet who the judge is for that judicial session. It will be interesting to learn and watch the events unfold through the summer.

As an observer, I understand the time and expense for obtaining a transcription of the first trial. My caution is that in an effort to expedite, that the assigned court reporter, Leanna Lynch, does not ask anyone affiliated with Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) to help in the completion of the request- for obvious reasons. Bridges Court Reporting is owned by Laura R. Bridges. She is a faithful WOFF member at last count having previously worked inside the Rutherford County Courthouse. There may be guidelines already in place to prevent such a mistake. I am not sure, but just wanted to make known my concerns.
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MISTRIAL: The wounds are still open…

Superior Court in Rutherford County

Tuesday morning began with a buzz of expectancy. Conversations were filled with exchanges of opinions and speculations about what the next few hours held. Could this be the day that Brooke Covington of the Word of Faith fellowship (WOFF) is convicted of simple assault and/or second-degree kidnapping? Or will the huge grin from last week return to her face as she is found not guilty on both counts?

Will Matthew Fenner return to his life in college with some satisfaction knowing the legal system in North Carolina has meted out justice in response to the five indictments surrounding the events of January 27, 2013 occurring inside the sanctuary of WOFF? Brooke Covington is the first trial as four others; Sarah Anderson, Justin Covington, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley were also charged and await their fate. Who could have predicted the events that would unfold?

The jury assembled at 9:00AM and returned to deliberations shortly thereafter. When I entered to courtroom, the atmosphere was different from days previous. The witness sequestration was over and more people were in the room including media, supporters of Matthew and a crowd from WOFF. The number of media representatives was larger than days past. I took a seat and began speaking with an investigative reporter from another city.

Soon, I learned of an incident from earlier in the morning. A young man had made some negative comments to a jury member in the hallway, and after the bailiff consulted with the Judge, the man was arrested. The man was to be charged with harassment of a juror and Judge Gavenus had requested the young man appear before him for arraignment and bond. This was only a foretaste of things to come.
Continue reading MISTRIAL: The wounds are still open…

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Fenner Update: Defense Calls No Witnesses, Case Goes to the Jury

Today’s testimony by State witness Rachel Bryant confirmed the meeting held at Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) in Jane Whaley’s office as attended by several church member attorneys with the purpose of coordinating and coaching a strategy to counteract the charges filed in this case. The list of attendees sounded more extensive to me and I believe had an effect on what occurred later in the day. Ms. Bryant was the second witness in this trial to tell of the gathering, however, she did not attend the follow-up meeting in the sanctuary outlined in earlier testimony by Sarah Anderson.

The State also called a man who worked as a Detective Special Agent for the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) in 1995, Mr. Shook. He was present during the March 1995 interview of Brooke Covington and relayed information from that investigation. That session centered on an incident from 1988 where WOFF members were involved in restraining a lady to a bed for 13 days for an extended “deliverance” session. Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers said the purpose for introducing the testimony was to affirm that when Brooke told Matthew, ‘You are going nowhere until these devils come out, I don’t care if I takes three days,’- she meant it.

After much discussion between Byers and Teddy over Rule 44-B, Judge Gavenus disallowed the admission of Det. Shook’s testimony and the jury never heard about the 1995 SBI investigation into WOFF from which then District Attorney Jeff Hunt decided not to pursue charges.

In retrospect, if Hunt had pursued charges in 1995, whether convictions were obtained or not; is it possible we would not have had the countless lives negatively affected by WOFF over the years since and the incidents involving today’s case never would have occurred? We will never know for certain. At a minimum, the evolution for “blasting prayer” to become “more and more aggressive over the last 16 years…” as Sarah Anderson testified during trial– may have been avoided. The entire WOFF subculture could have taken on a different nature- a healthier one. (Sigh)
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Fenner Case Update- Three Witnesses Testify for the State

At the close of Friday’s session, Judge Gary Gavenus announced with a smile that the jury was excused for the weekend recess. After two full days of witness testimony on behalf of the prosecution in the Matthew Fenner case, he ended with the often repeated precautions for the jury to not expose themselves to outside sources of information including news media, Internet or social media. He added they were not to talk to each other, family or anyone else about the case in any manner. His instructions were firm, but laced with an underlying tone of respect and consideration for the fourteen individuals who answered the call for this jury session.

This has been a full week as several Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) members, former church members, press correspondents and supporters endured two full days to select the needed jurors. After the last alternate juror was selected and the Judge gave the jury instructions; Matthew Fenner was the first witness called for the State on Thursday. He testified the rest of the day. As a result of each potential witness being sequestered (not present in the courtroom during any testimony of other witnesses), the gallery was less full than in the previous two days.

In an attempt to time my arrival, I missed the first part of Matthew’s testimony which included his description of the events of January 27, 2013. I was told by one who heard it; they believed it was emotional and impactful. I have not doubt. The part of Matthew’s testimony outlining the events leading up to his escape is where my notes start.
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Fenner Case Update: 7 Jurors Seated, 7 more needed

The first of possibly five separate trials in the Matthew Fenner case in Rutherford County began on Tuesday. Today’s session involved the State vs. Brooke McFadden Covington. By 9:51AM, Judge Gary Gavenus let everyone in the court know the Motion for a Change of Venue was “Denied!” He intended to move forward with jury selection, twelve jurors and two alternates.

Mrs. Covington is one of five defendants who include Justin Covington, Sarah Covington Anderson, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley. Indictments stemming from alleged incidents on January 27, 2013 at Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) in which Fenner claims he was assaulted include second-degree kidnapping, first degree assault and one count of attempted strangulation.

Leading up to the Judge’s announcement this morning was discussion which among other things included the question of plea deals or concessions to witnesses – of which Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers admitted there were none at this time after he had withdrawn the plea offered to Adam Bartley in prior months. Covington’s defense attorney David Teddy will be notified should any future deals or concessions be offered.

Additional conversation about one particular email between the State and an attorney for another defendant was reviewed by the Judge who then deemed it not pertinent to the case; sealed in an envelope and placed in the file. Judge Gavenus also outlined the procedure for interviewing jurors. They were to enter the court one at a time from the jury holding room. He would address them first, next Byers would asked questions and attorney Teddy would finish with his questions.

The left side of the courtroom was reserved for the jury pool. They were led in and out by the bailiff. He retrieved each new jury candidate and led them to their seat in the middle of the jury box. He directed their every step.

This arrangement meant the right side of the gallery was for everyone else. Everyone else included the distinct sub-groups, the media, now-WOFF members (leadership and those subpoenaed), ex-WOFF members (many who were witnesses) and family and supporters of Matthew. During the course of the day, it was clear each party knew the invisible boundaries which stood between the opposing groups. The signals became more confusing after lunch as Brooke’s supporters took the second row from the front behind the media and Matthew’s group filled in next with more now-WOFF members behind them. Yes, it was awkward.
Continue reading Fenner Case Update: 7 Jurors Seated, 7 more needed

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Friday: Fenner Hearing in Rutherford County (video)

Before the hearing…
“The door is locked.” The crowd standing upstairs in the Rutherford County courthouse included the defendant, Brooke Covington, Kent Covington, Karel Reynolds with Jayne Caulder- who floated in and out of the area. Yes, add to this Word of Fellowship (WOFF) contingency; Matthew Fenner, a few of his family members, supporters and news media. (I was not ready to throw up the red awkward flag, but it was close.) After a few social charged moments mediated by a few laughs, a county official opened the door and we all cautiously entered the courtroom making sure not to touch or encounter any members of the other side.

Once inside the process of choosing your seat began. Strategy and some personal preference led me to sit three rows from the front on the right side with members of Matthew’s family. Before I landed there, I noticed Karel taking out her pen and pad dividing her page into sections as if she were taking attendance and notes for a report to her teacher. Realizing the note taking would be critical, I also began my efforts.

Already in the bar area was District Attorney Ted Bell with his Assistant, David Norris. Over the next few minutes, court employees filtered in and out as preparations were made for the long waited hearing. The highly anticipated Motion for a Change of Venue would be argued along with possible discussion on several other motions. I noticed the clock moving past 2:00PM and felt concerned until Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers enter with defense attorney David Teddy not far behind. Both looked stern as they took their places. Previously, Teddy had invited Brooke to the defense table so; the show was ready to begin.

Calling out the introduction, All rise…. The bailiff announced the Honorable Judge Gary Gavenus was set to preside- this court will now come to order! Be seated.

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Fenner Case: Next Hearing May 19th- 2:00PM

The next chapter in the Matthew Fenner case is scheduled for Friday, May 19th at 2:00PM. Rccatalyst.com reported on May 9th an additional motion placed on the agenda for the hearing. A Motion of Discovery filed by ADA Garland Byers seeks the preview of all documents, photographs, video recordings which Brooke Covington’s defense attorney David Teddy plans to use during trial. The State also requests to learn if Teddy plans to use insanity, self-defense, voluntary or involuntary intoxication as her defense along with the reuqest for a list of any expert witnesses. A copy of the Motion is found in the article at Rccatalyst.com.

The list of Motions include:
– Defendant’s Motion for Change of Venue,
– Defendant’s Motion for a Bill of Particulars ( opposed by the State in Rccatalyst.com-here)
– State’s Motion for Joinder of Offenses for Trial
– State’s Motion in the Alternative to a venue change s Special Venire (jury pool),
– Motion for Discovery

One more motion by the State filed March 22nd- Motion for Jury View & Testimony During Jury View was discussed in a previous hearing, but not listed in the Rccatlyst.com coverage.

The Motion for Change of Venue will determine the future of this case when and where it will be held. The outcome of the Change of Venire will tell us from which county the jury pool will originate, if different from Rutherford County. The Motion for Jury View if approved will allow the jury to visit Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) and have Matthew describe in sworn testimony the events that unfolded the fateful night of January 27, 2013. My friends, we are not surprised that Jane Whaley is fighting this Motion with her own attorney, John W. Gresham. She is putting her foot down, her hand held up high and her shrill cry peeling the paint off the walls in warring prayer to squash any effort to cast her beloved sanctuary as a potential crime scene.
Continue reading Fenner Case: Next Hearing May 19th- 2:00PM

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