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Bishop Takes Legal Action

Bishop Walter Hanchell

Bishop Walter Hanchell

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

BISHOP Walter Hanchell of Great Commission Ministries said yesterday he will “file a formal complaint to the Chief Justice” while standing firm by his criticism of Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt and her decision to defer bail for two of his church’s clergymen accused of cruelty to a 15-year-old boy.

It comes after the Chief Magistrate originally deferred her decision to grant bail to 27-year-old Arsenio Butler and 25-year-old Devin Sears, who are both accused of giving a teenage boy alcohol “in a manner likely to cause injury to his health.”

Butler, a pastor-elect, was separately charged with indecent assault for allegedly putting his hand down the teenager’s trousers.

The men entered not guilty pleas on Wednesday and were remanded to prison until the next day while the Chief Magistrate considered bail.

On Thursday, she said the Bail Act allowed her to defer bail for less than 24 hours while considering factors related to the case.

She then repeated in her words the “loose remarks” made by Bishop Hanchell on Wednesday afternoon, after her initial deferral.

“I’ve never seen a more ugly scene in a courtroom by a magistrate, who supposed to know that everybody is innocent until proven guilty, deferring bail for somebody that the prosecutor have no objection to bail because of a personal vendetta,” the magistrate quoted him.

She said she had forwarded Bishop Hanchell’s “scurrilous” remarks about her handling of the case to the Attorney General’s office where officials “will make a determination” on the matter.

Bishop Hanchell said yesterday: “I have instructed our attorneys to file a formal complaint to the Chief Justice with regards to this matter.”

Bishop Hanchell said he does not condone or support those who abuse minors.

“I have been a vocal advocate against child sexual abuse for many years and have called for stiffer penalties to be imposed on convicted child molesters,”  he said.

“Unlike many of my colleagues, I believe that corporal punishment should be given to persons found guilty of the sexual abuse of children. I will continue to advocate for the rights and protection of our precious children.”

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