Tag Archives: Sarah Anderson

Fenner Case Update: Walker Trial Continued and Gag Order Modified

What does this all mean?

Rccatalyst.com reported the continuance of the Robert Louis Walker trial earlier in October. A date for the trial to begin was not set. The reason given was “new discovery.” Translated this means new evidence. Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers agreed to the continuance and one has to interpret from that notion that the “new discovery” held some weight and potential effect on the pending trial, possibly a good thing in the long run (longer than ever anticipated).

For background: these ongoing court proceedings stem from incidents on January 27, 2013 in the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) sanctuary in which Matthew Fenner alleges he was assaulted, held against his will and strangled. The indictments handed down in January 2015 were filed against Brooke M. Covington, Sarah Anderson, Justin Covington, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley- all church members at the time of the incidents. After many pre-trial motions during 2015 which included a disqualification of Farmer and Morris as counsel for any of the defendants, Brooke Covington’s trial commenced earlier this year. During the June 6th session, unauthorized documents introduced into the jury room by the jury foreman caused Judge Gavenus to declare a mistrial. In addition, he followed this with a gag order on those involved in that trial either as potential witnesses, attorneys and court officials. The jury foreman, Perry Shade, spent 30 days in jail and was fined $500.00. The Associated Press filed suit to remove the gag order.

Rccatalyst.com also reported Judge Gary Gavenus finally ruled on the gag order he imposed in June. In court documents provided on the Rccatalytst.com website, Judge Gavenus modifies the order to allow the jurors to talk freely to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). He orders the sealed documents surrounding the trial and the documents introduced to the jury held and viewed only by the SBI. He states he never intended the gag order to be permanent and set it to expire on March 31, 2018. Included in the documents is a line by line account of the conversations during the session on June 6th. I found this very satisfying and was glad to know the public could get some understanding for how this all evolved in court. The AP’s motion to immediately lift the gag order was unsuccessful.
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Fenner Update: Bartley Trial Date Moved, Walker Trial set for October 23rd

Buncombe County Courthouse Entrance

Following the predictably unpredictable theme, on Wednesday of this week, Brian Oglesby filed a Motion to Withdraw as counsel for Adam Bartley. Attorney Thomas Amburgey filed a Notice of Appearance to represent Bartley and a Motion for Continuance. Judge Marvin Pope scheduled a hearing on the Motion for Continuance for Friday at 2:00PM, in the Buncombe County courtroom on the ninth floor.

This development came less than two weeks before the trial for Adam Bartley was set to start on October 23rd. The Rccatalyst.com reported this update on Thursday with several documents provided in the article to show the steps leading up to Friday’s hearing.

These proceedings stem from incidents on January 27, 2013 in the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) sanctuary in which Matthew Fenner alleges he was assaulted, held against his will and strangled. The indictments handed down in January 2015 were against Brooke M. Covington, Sarah Anderson, Justin Covington, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley. After many pre-trial motions which included a disqualification of Farmer and Morris as counsel for any of the defendants, Brooke Covington’s trial commenced earlier this year. Unauthorized documents introduced into the jury room by the jury foreman caused Judge Gavenus to declare a mistrial followed by a gag order on those involved in that trial. The jury foreman also spent 30 days in jail and was fined $500.00. The Associated Press filed suit to remove the gag order. To date, the gag order remains in place and blocking investigators from performing any inquiries into the jury foreman’s actions.
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Fenner case-Predictably Unpredictable, Trials Moved to Buncombe County

Rccatalyst.com reported earlier this week concerning the hearing held on Monday, September 11, 2017. Judge Marvin pope allowed Robert Denton to withdraw as counsel for Adam Bartley. Public defender, Brian Oglesby was assigned to represent Bartley. Also, Judge Pope requested a hearing which was held today to rule on the Motion for Change of Venue for the defendants in the ongoing saga – the Matthew Fenner case.

This case stems from incidents on January 27, 2013 in which Fenner alleges he was beaten and strangled during a blasting deliverance prayer session inside the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) sanctuary. Five indictments against former and present members have been the subject of a rolling sea of pretrial motions, appeals, a disqualification of counsel and a mistrial. The mistrial occurred this past June in the trial of Brooke Covington. Presiding Judge Gavenous placed a gag order which still impedes the investigation into the mechanics on how unauthorized documents were delivered into the jury room and subsequently lead to the declaration of a mistrial. The jury foreman spent 30 days in jail and was fined $500 for the conduct.

The list of defendants includes Brooke Covington, Justin Covington, Sarah Anderson, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley. The charges include first degree assault and second degree kidnapping for all, as well as the charge of inflicting injury by strangulation against Sarah Anderson.

Today’s hearing was short and to the point. I learned that Judge Pope requested Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers to draw up and order which moves four of the cases to Buncombe County. Brooke Covington’s case was not moved at this time, though her counsel, David Teddy was in court today. Byers will coordinate with the District Attorney’s office in Buncombe County to obtain court dates. Judge Pope was very deliberate and forthright after hearing statements from a few of the counselors in this case.
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Hurricane Irma and the Matthew Fenner Case

What do Hurricane Irma and the Matthew Fenner case have in common? Predictable unpredictability.

Weather predictors do their job with computer models and the circumstances as they unfold, attempting to predict the course and strength of this massive storm which did not followed the earlier predictions. Early predictions had the storm following a similar course as Hurricane Matthew from last year, along the east side of Florida. This did not happen. We hear statements now saying parts of the predictions came true while others did not. Weather prognostications are just that- best guesses.

In January 2015, if a legal prognosticator had attempted to predict the course and time frame that the Matthew Fenner case would take to complete, how accurate would they have been? There have been twists, turns and flips in the course of the prosecution of five defendants from Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) which I doubt anyone could have foreseen.

The Rccatalyst.com recently published a updated timeline of the events surrounding this case. This case involves events from January 27, 2013 in the sanctuary of WOFF where in Matthew Fenner alleges he was beaten and held against his will because he was gay. Indictments for first degree assault and second degree kidnapping were handed down in January 2015 against Brooke Covington, Justin Covington, Sarah Anderson, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley. An additional charge of inflicting injury by strangulation was filed against Sarah Anderson.
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Fenner Case- Medical issues for David Teddy delay Covington trial, Bartley Case called for September

The months pass quickly again this year as the journey for justice is longer and longer. Today’s hearing in front of Judge Marvin Caldwell was postponed because this Judge refused/declined to hear the motions according Rccatalyst.com. In another report, Rccatalyst.com shares the update that on July 28th at 9:30AM in the Buncombe County Superior Court- Judge Marvin Pope will hear pre-trial motions which include these possibilities:

-Motion for Continuance
-Motion for Fenner to produce recordings
-Motion for Change of Venue by Teddy

In a related matter, Judge Gavenus as the originator of the gag order set in place after the mistrial on June 6th in the State versus Brooke Covington trial – has agreed to review the pending motion to lift the order filed by the Associated Press and the Charlotte Observer. He will also review the motion filed by the State to partially lift the gag order so the investigation into the introduction of unauthorized documents into the jury room by the jury foreman can proceed. Judge Gavenus is asking for the supporting documents to be submitted on or before August 1st.

The court calendar lists the State versus Adam Bartley for September 11th. Bartley is one of the Famous Five defendants who all were members of the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) on January 27, 2013, the date Matthew Fenner alleges he was assaulted and held against his will in a deliverance session in the WOFF sanctuary. The other four include: Brooke Covington, Justin Covington, Sarah Anderson, and Robert Louis Walker, Jr. Since the incident date, Bartley and Sarah Anderson have left WOFF.
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Fenner Case takes a turn… July 17th next court date

moon plant
moon plant

As I sit here surveying the latest round of Motions and Orders in the Matthew Fenner case, I can’t help but wonder where the road will lead us. Where will this path that began in 1979 by Sam and Jane Whaley take us as a community and as a group of survivors, where will it end? Will it ever end? Will the destructive dynamics set in motion so many years ago, which have been allowed to strengthen and fester in a small community in Western North Carolina ever come to a conclusion? Does the winding journey have a happy ending for anyone?

This journey begun with possibly good intentions includes people from several countries and many members hailing from various parts of the United States. On this day when we are to celebrate the freedom afforded us by our Constitution and upheld by our strength as a nation; we are experiencing and witnessing a court case unfold which includes allegations of intimidation and fear, along with testimonies and evidence which any sane person would agree do not signify a healthy religious environment.

A survey of the history of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) includes episodes of religious abuse, political and community scandal, physical and emotional abuse, financial doubts and many court cases full of legal wrangling. A journey of over thirty years has touched so many lives in on several continents in such negative ways. I do not believe what we see as the practices included in the WOFF subculture were ones our forefathers intended to protect when they declared “freedom of religion.”
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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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