By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A 16-year-old boy told a magistrate yesterday how being called into a meeting with a pastor spiralled into a night of drinking and being fondled by the minister.
People’s Assembly Word Centre ministers Arsenio Butler and Devin Sears sat in apparent shock and disbelief at the teenager’s recollection of the evening of January 31 when they were pointed out as the culprits who blackmailed him into drinking wine, Guinness and Red Bull.
Their lawyer, Romona Farquharson-Seymour, suggested to the boy that he was lying about her clients, whom he admitted had never touched him inappropriately whenever they were alone prior to the alleged incident.
Butler, 27, and Sears, 25, face a charge of cruelty to children, alleged to have been committed between January 31 and February 1. It is claimed that they gave a teenage boy alcohol “in a manner likely to cause injury to his health”.
Butler, a pastor-elect, was separately charged with indecent assault, where it is alleged that he put his hand down the teenager’s trousers. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges in their first Magistrate’s Court appearance in February.
In yesterday’s proceedings before Magistrate Andrew Forbes, Crown prosecutor Cordell Frazier questioned the complainant on what led to him having to give sworn testimony.
The boy said that he was at home on January 31 when he got a call from the church and took a 16A bus to the church, reaching there around 5.30pm.
After exchanging pleasantries with the church secretary, the boy said he was told that “Pastor Butler wanted to meet me in his office”.
“He started asking me personal questions. He asked if I have a girlfriend, if I watch porn and if I ever had sex,” the witness said, adding that he didn’t answer the questions.
“He asked my mother for permission to take me out to socialise,” the boy said, adding that she was in the church at choir practice.
In the meeting, the boy said Butler asked him if he had ever drunk before.
“I said ‘yes sir, I drank once at a party in Jamaica’,” the court heard. The boy was reportedly asked if he drank wine but said he did not.
After the meeting, the teen went to work in the church’s audio production room with an acquaintance around the time that “Minister Sears came and called for a next meeting.”
“Minister Sears” he claimed, “started talking about how we could improve the sound.”
The boy said there was another meeting held by Butler and Sears after the choir members had left. Afterwards the three of them had locked up the church around 10pm and left.
The boy said they made a stop for Sears to change out out of his tuxedo before they returned to the church and then “we drove to McDonalds by COB.”
The boy said that Sears then drove them to a drive-through liquor store on Soldier Road where Sears purchased “red and clear wine, Red Bull and Guinness.” They got plastic cups “and we said cheers.”
“He (Butler) said to chug it down. I said I can’t drink all of it. He insisted and did a count down and I drank it. It made my body feel warm,” the court heard.
“After that, I felt sick,” the boy said, adding that Butler “poured me a second cup of red wine.”
The boy claimed that he refused but Butler threatened to tell his grandmother, who would likely take away all of his electronic devices.
The boy said he drank it and not long afterwards, “while we were on the highway, I told them I had to go pee badly”.
They reportedly pulled over to a bushy area near a pre-school, where the boy relieved himself and got back in the car. “I told them I wanted to go home.”
The complainant alleged that Sears suggested they go to Arawak Cay before pouring him another cup of wine mixed with Guinness.
“I told them I feel drunk,” the court heard.
The boy said before he knew it, they were parked on Bay Street near a major retail store and he was pulled out of the car by Butler. The boy claimed he was wobbling and holding on to “stuff” before they ended up by the wharf walking in the direction of Senor Frogs.
“He (Butler) said if I was really drunk, I would take off all my clothes and jump in the water. I sat on the wall and threw up,” the boy said.
The complainant said Butler repeatedly punched him in the back of the neck for doing so and kicking him in his side.
The boy claimed that they ended up at his grandmother’s house where he, Butler and Sears lived. Sears reportedly drove off, however.
The boy claimed that he fell on the porch as Butler called out for the boy’s cousin who was supposed to be home. When they didn’t receive an answer, Butler reportedly began “unbuttoning my shirt and unzipping my pants.”
“He pulled my pants down to my thigh and he started rubbing my penis from outside my boxers,” the court heard.
“I got up and asked ‘what are you doing?’” adding that he knew something was up when he went to try to go to a neighbour’s house and was grabbed by the hand and told to sit down.
The boy claimed that his female cousin, not long afterwards, opened the door and let them inside.
“He (Butler) pushed me into the room he was sleeping in. I was told to take off all my clothes and go to bed before he shut the door,” the court heard.
The boy said he went to lock the door and realised that Butler was still there when he reiterated the demand. The boy claimed he said he wouldn’t do so until he left.
When the cousin came out of the other room to ask what was going on, he cried out that he was going to get raped. The boy said he ran into his grandmother’s room in which the cousin was previously sleeping and locked them in.
He claimed his cousin didn’t believe that a pastor was trying to rape him moments before the door “got burst down.”
Standing in the door was Sears, who asked what the boy, now wielding a cutlass, what he was doing.
“Pastor Butler said I was making all these false allegations against him,” the court heard.
The boy said his mother came shortly afterwards and instructed him to go next door to her house before going to the nearest police station, where he reported what had happened to him while bringing up what he had ingested.
The complainant continued that he was taken outside the station where he vomited again and “saw the ambulance came.”
“They put me on a stretcher, drew blood and then I blacked out,” the boy added.
The boy was then cross-examined by the lawyer for the two accused.
Mrs Farquharson-Seymour asked the boy if he had truly arrived at the church around 5.30am. The boy said he did and that the conversation with the pastor lasted “20 minutes to half an hour”, after which his mother came in.
The lawyer suggested the boy got to church around 7pm, that the
secretary questioned him why he was late and that he was “wobbling” when he came in. The boy denied this, saying “I was ok. I was not drunk.”
The lawyer further suggested that Butler was already in a meeting with church members when he was made to wait. The boy denied this and that it was the secretary who said she would speak to the pastor about his apparent state at the time.
The boy said he had only been a member of the new church for two months so didn’t know choir practice for his mother began at 7pm.
“When you entered the meeting with Pastor Butler, he began to ask you what was going on with you,” Mrs Farquharson-Seymour said.
The boy said he was asked more personal questions about pornography and sex.
“You said to him you only had a little something when he asked you if you had been drinking,” the lawyer suggested. The boy denied this and that
he had revealed to the pastor how he was being bullied at school.
“Didn’t you tell the pastor that your stepfather is the one who introduced you to drinking?” the lawyer probed. The boy disagreed.
“I suggest to you that had he really started asking you about porn, you would’ve felt uncomfortable,” Mrs Farquharson-Seymour said.
“He was the pastor … I trusted him and I didn’t think anything was going to happen.”
“Because it’s all a lie,” the lawyer said. The boy said it was not.
“If it was the case you would’ve left with your mother,” the lawyer suggested.
The boy claimed his mother didn’t have a car and “she had to go with the church bus.” The boy claimed he asked to go with her; however, he could not recall at what point he asked this and admitted that this was not in his police statements.
The lawyer suggested to the boy that he had shouted at her client for forgetting to take him for something to eat, despite his apologies. The boy denied this.
“Because of your insistence, that’s when Pastor Butler said we’ll get you something to eat and take you straight home,” the lawyer suggested. The boy said this was a lie.
Shifting her questioning to the liquor store, the lawyer suggested to the boy that he lied about them telling him to “chug it down.” The boy denied this.
“You chug it down twice?” the lawyer asked. The boy said yes.
“You said he beat you?” Mrs Farquharson-Seymour probed. “Yes ma’am,” he said, adding that the punches were very hard and claiming he was punched about 15 times. He said he didn’t show police the marks but claimed that they and doctors saw markings on his neck.
Mrs Farquharson-Seymour asked him if the events were fresh in his mind when he spoke to police on February 1. The boy said “yes” and agreed he had made no mention of Butler or Sears fondling his penis?” in his statement.
“In fact, it’s not until around February 4 that you told police how Minister Butler was rubbing against your penis outside your house,” the lawyer suggested.
“I was ashamed to say it at first,” the boy replied.
“I’m going to suggest to you it takes you three days to do so because it was a fabrication.”
The boy denied this and said “I never felt uncomfortable until he touched my penis.”
The lawyer suggested to the boy that Butler was rarely alone with him and any dealings with him, always went through his mother or grandmother.
The boy agreed.
“The times when he was alone with you, did he (Butler) ever attempt to touch you?” the lawyer asked.
“The entire time he (Butler) lived with you, did he do anything to your penis?” The boy said no.
“Minister Sears ever touched or made any advances to you?”
“No ma’am,” the boy replied.
The case resumes today.