By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE mother of a 16-year-old boy who claimed a pastor blackmailed him into a night of drinking said she had agreed with the pastor’s suggestion that the boy needed to “get out of his shell”.
The witness told the court yesterday that she let her child go out with People’s Assembly Word Centre ministers Arsenio Butler and Devin Sears because they never did anything to betray her trust in the time that they lived in her mother’s house with her son.
Butler, 27, and Sears, 25, face a charge of cruelty to a child, 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. 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 Edmund Turner questioned the witness on her whereabouts the evening of January 31.
She said she left work around 6pm to attend choir practice. She said that she caught a bus that arrived around 6:30pm.
“Choir practice usually starts around 7pm,” the court was told.
“When I arrived, I went straight into the sanctuary and after a few minutes, my son came out of Pastor Butler’s office and told me the pastor wanted to see me,” the witness said.
“How did your son appear to you at the time?” the prosecutor asked.
“He was fine, sir,” the witness said, adding that she followed her son into the office.
“What, if anything, took place?” the prosecutor asked.
“He proceeded to ask me if he and Minister Sears could take him out to socialise because he (Butler) would like to get him (her son) out of his shell because he always liked to be on the computer,” the boy’s mother said.
She added that she “agreed with him (Butler) that my son liked to be on the computer a lot and he was like me, didn’t like to socialise”.
The boy’s mother claimed this meeting took place before the start of choir practice and after it’s conclusion, the pastor walked her back into the sanctuary.
The prosecutor asked why she gave consent and her answer was “at that point, his father died and there was no father figure for him. And I had no reason to believe he would do something bad”.
The mother continued that her choir practice ended at 9pm and said she left the church after speaking to her son and went home to the duplex she shared with her mother.
Then around 1:30am, she said her doorbell rang and “it was Pastor Butler at the door”.
“I asked him where was my son and he told me he only gave him (her son) Red Bull and he started to say that my son claimed he was trying to rape him,” the witness said.
“I asked him again where was my son and he told me he was next door and I went there immediately,” she added.
The boy’s mother said she called out for her son who answered back. She said she rushed into the room to find him slouched over with the smell of alcohol on him.
She claimed he was crying, which prompted her to cry as well. She said her niece and Minister Sears were present at the time when Butler repeatedly claimed he had only given her son some Red Bull, an energy drink.
She told her son to go next door to wait for her and moments later she took him to the police station to file a complaint.
At the station, an ambulance was called for her son and he was taken to hospital around 2:30am where he stayed until later that morning.
She claimed that a nurse mentioned that her son had been bruised on the back of his neck.
The mother was then questioned by Romona Farquharson-Seymour, lawyer for the accused men.
“I’m going to suggest to you that when you arrived at the church, choir practice had already begun,” the lawyer said.
“That’s not true,” the mother said.
“Didn’t you, yesterday, have a conversation with your son with respect to the evidence in this matter?” Mrs Farquharson-Seymour asked.
“I did not talk to my son about evidence. I consoled him and asked him if he was okay,” the mother replied.
“I suggest that you did speak to him with respect to the evidence,” the lawyer said.
“At the courthouse? No, ma’am,” the woman replied.
“At any time?” the magistrate interjected. “No,” the woman replied.
“I suggest that he came to you and said that ‘She tried to trick me’ and you said ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to fix it tomorrow,” the lawyer said.
The witness denied the suggestion.
The lawyer shifted her questioning back to the choir practice and suggested that the woman went directly into rehearsal when she arrived at church. The witness denied this.
Mrs Farquharson-Seymour asked the magistrate if the witness could be shown her statement to police on the basis of inconsistency.
However, when her signed statement was put to her, the boy’s mother did not accept that the document said she went directly into rehearsal.
“I told them (police) lots more, but they didn’t put it in,” she added.
“You accept that you signed the statement as being true and correct and that you could have made additions or corrections if need be?” the lawyer then asked.
“They also have misspelt words and I signed it still,” the mother replied.
“Would it be correct that when you arrived, you didn’t see your son, but knew he would soon turn up?” the lawyer probed.
“I didn’t see him because I was in the room waiting for the rehearsal,” the witness replied.
“Didn’t you tell police in your statement you didn’t see him, but knew he would soon arrive?” the lawyer asked.
“Yes, ma’am, it’s there,” the woman answered.
The lawyer suggested to the witness that in the meeting with her client, Pastor Butler, he had also asked to speak privately with her at a later date. The witness denied this and further denied that she had told Butler that she had also seen changes in her son’s behaviour.
“He only spoke of taking my son out. That was his only interest. That’s all he asked me,” the boy’s mother maintained.
“You said you trusted him?” the lawyer asked.
“Yes,” the witness answered.
“You agree that there was never any inappropriateness of them (Butler and Sears) with your son prior to this claim?” the lawyer asked. The mother agreed.
“You next had contact with the pastor around 1:30am? And you claim he said he gave your son Red Bull?” the lawyer asked.
“Yes, ma’am”, the mother said.
“I suggest in your statement to police, you indicated Pastor Butler told you your son started saying stuff after drinking Red Bull. He (Butler) never said he gave him it,” the lawyer said.
“Pastor Butler told me he gave him a Red Bull,” the mother maintained.
The case was adjourned to December 10 at 1pm.