Tina Anderson, Chuck Phelps Take Stand in Willis Trial

Details in the http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/258876/victim-testifies-to-sexual-... ]Concord Monitor

Monitor reporter Maddie Hanna is also tweeting from the trial http://twitter.com/#!/maddiehanna ]here

WMUR-TV is providing live updates http://livewire.wmur.com/Event/Trial_Of_Ernest_Willis_Continues ]here

UPDATE (1:30 EDT)- Chuck Phelps is taking the stand. Live updates at the links above.

2:50 PM EDT- Video footage from WMUR http://youtu.be/RJrebgIKGZI ]here

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There are 218 Comments

Greg Linscott's picture

Joshua Caucutt wrote:
Greg, I'm sure that the level of outrage would be far less. However, since we are playing "whatif?", a better question might be, what if the girl involved had been Dr. Phelps' own daughter (heaven forbid) Would only a single phone call had been made to the police?

Probably not. But that being said, in your "what if" he would have (presumably) cooperative parents and a victim who was cooperative in the reporting of the crime to the authorities. Correct me if I am wrong here- I have not seen anywhere that I can think of that Phelps was wrong when he has said that the victim (at the time) was insistent that the perpetrator ought not be reported. Certainly the mother doesn't appear to have pushed the matter legally at all.

It does seem that more calls could have been made. It certainly seems to me that the perpetrator should not have continued to be allowed to serve in ministry capacities in the church as he appears to have been. This is where I would think that his greatest error and irresponsibility would lie (that and the way it was presented to the church). And let it be noted, that those are not trivial matters to be responsible for, either- I would think that they would certainly have some grave ecclesiastical repercussions, if not legal ones. I am not sure, given all the facts that we have, however, that the blame for this case not going to court for 14 years rests mainly with him. It would seem to me that the lion's share of that rests with the Concord PD and the mother. It does strike me odd that in all the decrying here (and similar venues), I have read plenty of criticism
of Phelps and the mother, but very little (if any) of the law enforcement.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Joshua Caucutt's picture

I agree . . . it was strange to me that law enforcement's role in all of this did not become a bigger part of the trial. I was also surprised at the degree to which the prosecution was able to pursue Phelp's testimony, without the defense stepping in to object. The defense allowed this case to be more about IFB than about Mr. Willis.

formerly known as Coach C

LJ Moody's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:
I am not defending how Chuck Phelps handled this. I am wondering, however- if the Concord PD had run with the ball like they should have when this was initially reported, would Chuck still be vilified as being part of the "culture of cover-up" like he is by many? If today's verdict had been arrived at in a matter of days or months after the crime was committed rather than 14 years later, would there still be the level of outrage directed toward him that there appears to be today?

According to the Concord PD testimony during the trial (including cross-examination by the defense attorney), the incident was NOT reported as rape by Chuck Phelps. Detective Gagnon's testimony of his conversation with Chris Leaf was consistent with this also. According to his own testimony on the stand, Chuck believed Willis' later explanation that it was consensual, in spite of Willis' first statement that he was the aggressor. On the stand, Chuck said that Willis seemed to stand more to lose and so he believed Willis.

Also, according to the testimony of multiple witnesses, Tina was not asked if it was rape or if she consented.

I observed David Gibbs III talking with Chris and Dan Leaf in the Hampton Inn the morning Chris Leaf's testimony began. Another witness to their conversation took notes because Chris was speaking loudly and was easily overheard. Chris would not say on the stand that she refused to give info to the police, but by her own testimony, she stonewalled them. When you see her testimony in the transcript, I think you will find it startling and very disturbing. It confirms exactly what I said about my own experience and conversations with her on Bob Bixby's blog.

In his testimony on the stand, Detective Gagnon clearly stated that he got a report from DCYF, that the word rape was not used, that he then followed up with Chris Leaf. He said Chuck Phelps did not return his call.

Obviously this is a matter of Chuck Phelps saying the police did not call him back and Det. Gagnon saying he did call Chuck and got no response. With the word rape not being used and no cooperation, Gagnon tabled the investigation. Was that wrong? If Chuck Phelps did not believe by his own testimony it was forcible rape, then I am not so sure the majority of blame can fall to Det. Gagnon.

Pat Payette said earlier that the defense was not objecting--interrupting the flow of the prosecution's story. I don't know where you got that impression, Pat. Even the media in the room spoke of how unusual the frequent side bars with the attorneys were. The defense attorney that sat to Ernie's right side (not Brown) objected a lot. She had thick heels on her shoes and her steps up to the judge were very loud (old building). I don't know that Ernie will get an appeal based on bad defense attorneys.

Here's the crux of how the jury made the decision based on the law as the judge decided it. Which witnesses were most credible? No corroboration is required by NH state law since in a sexual assault, there are usually only two people present. However, in this case there was quite a bit of corroboration that Tina's story was consistent, save a lack of clear memory on timeline only.

Ernie's testimony (literally): I sensed she was open to my advances and asked her if she would like to go inside and participate in sexual intercourse with me. Ernie said Tina said yes to his question.

There was no testimony at all from Ernie for how he went from the person of power--the employer--to the person she wanted to have a sexual encounter with. The prosecutor kept at Ernie and his testimony remained the same (except that now he was claiming only one incident). The jury didn't believe that a 15 year old girl that looked like a little girl still, never wore tight clothing, but instead wore long dresses, skirts, and was taught that even holding hands was wrong (this testimony corroborated by other witnesses) just didn't believe that Ernie said "want to have sexual intercourse" and she said yes.

Since Chuck Phelps was not on trial, the jury did not have to decide if his actions obstructed justice. Those who were in the courtroom and those who read the testimony can decide that for themselves.

LJ Moody's picture

Joshua Caucutt wrote:
I agree . . . it was strange to me that law enforcement's role in all of this did not become a bigger part of the trial. I was also surprised at the degree to which the prosecution was able to pursue Phelp's testimony, without the defense stepping in to object. The defense allowed this case to be more about IFB than about Mr. Willis.

Joshua, the defense would have been the beneficiary if Chuck Phelps' notes had been excluded from evidence because of privilege. The defense position from opening arguments to closing was that Tina's memory changed because of how she was treated by the church and her prior abuse from her stepfather. From an observer's position inside the courtroom, it appeared that there was a lot more activity from the defense AFTER Chuck's notes were admitted and he said Ernie's first admission was that he was the aggressor. I could be wrong because the defense didn't say it in open court, but from opening statements, cross examination and other statements, it appeared the defense expected Chuck to be more helpful to Ernie's defense.

I addressed the belief that the defense didn't do much objecting in my post above. The live blogs just didn't report it all. We did a lot of sitting and waiting inside the courtroom on the objections and requests to approach the judge. There were also several hearings outside the presence of the jury. Those of us that came in support of Tina were instructed by the prosecutor not to text, e-mail or post any specific exchanges from the courtroom until after the verdict so we did not risk causing a mistrial.

Don Johnson's picture

LJ Moody wrote:
Obviously this is a matter of Chuck Phelps saying the police did not call him back and Det. Gagnon saying he did call Chuck and got no response. With the word rape not being used and no cooperation, Gagnon tabled the investigation. Was that wrong? If Chuck Phelps did not believe by his own testimony it was forcible rape, then I am not so sure the majority of blame can fall to Det. Gagnon.

Did he or did he not know Tina's age? The statutory rape aspect of the case should have been sufficient for him to be much more aggressive. Why would he need any contact with Pastor Phelps to continue the investigation? At this point, Tina was still in New Hampshire. He clearly dropped the ball, regardless of any excuses he tries to make.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Micheledo M's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
LJ Moody wrote:
Obviously this is a matter of Chuck Phelps saying the police did not call him back and Det. Gagnon saying he did call Chuck and got no response. With the word rape not being used and no cooperation, Gagnon tabled the investigation. Was that wrong? If Chuck Phelps did not believe by his own testimony it was forcible rape, then I am not so sure the majority of blame can fall to Det. Gagnon.

Did he or did he not know Tina's age? The statutory rape aspect of the case should have been sufficient for him to be much more aggressive. Why would he need any contact with Pastor Phelps to continue the investigation? At this point, Tina was still in New Hampshire. He clearly dropped the ball, regardless of any excuses he tries to make.

I have wondered this same thing and my own conclusion has been that we may never know that. On Chuck's own site didn't he say she was 16 and then later 15? She was 16 when she came to him, but 15 when it happened. Who knows what age was given to the police when the info was given to them. Unless specifically asked how old she was when it took place, I can see how easy it would have been to give the age of 16. Just from the very little I know, it seems like only an initial brief report was given. Not a detailed one. So I do wonder if they never really knew that she was 15.

So while I do think that the police department dropped the ball, they may not have even known they were holding it.

Pastor Phelps made some VERY serious errors. He choose to believe a pedophile/predator. A man who even (basically) said he was the predator. Phelps also has a TERRIBLE view of consensual sex. A view (at least that seems clear from his notes) that lends itself to covering up terrible crimes.

I'm thankful for the first hand testimony here. But it just seems to confirm that Phelps was not completely honest, that he had little compassion for the victim, and his main concern was the pedophile. It will be interesting to see how the IFB 'world' responds to Phelps, if he is still asked to travel and speak and be involved with organizations and such.

I don't know him,. He may very well be a godly man. And I pray that he sees the wrong he did and is humble enough to truly repent. But if he continues to stand by what he did, I will be disappointed to see him continue in his ministries.

Greg Linscott's picture

LJ Moody wrote:
According to the Concord PD testimony during the trial (including cross-examination by the defense attorney), the incident was NOT reported as rape by Chuck Phelps. Detective Gagnon's testimony of his conversation with Chris Leaf was consistent with this also. According to his own testimony on the stand, Chuck believed Willis' later explanation that it was consensual, in spite of Willis' first statement that he was the aggressor. On the stand, Chuck said that Willis seemed to stand more to lose and so he believed Willis...

Still, consensual or not, the law was broken. Statutory rape is still a criminal offense (even though a jury deemed it was otherwise). Once Phelps reported it, the PD should have pursued and investigated it to find out the details. As others have pointed out, there is certainly evidence to conclude that, at the very least, Phelps demonstrated errors in judgment- I am not disputing that. I am observing that those errors should have been overcome much sooner if law enforcement had done their job properly.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
Criminal laws deal with the legality of sexual acts. Statutory rape laws assume that all sexual
activities involving individuals below a certain age are coercive. This is true even if both parties
believe their participation is voluntary.
Generally, statutory rape laws define the age below
which an individual is legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity.

I don't want to confuse anyone http://www.hhs.gov/opa/pubs/statutory-rape-state-laws.pdf ]with facts here, but it doesn't matter if Pastor Phelps thought Tina Anderson was the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe- his opinion is not evidence, and would not be considered as evidence. Could we please bury that horse? It's not only dead, it's worm food.

It is also worth noting that laws vary from state to state. Don't assume you know the legal definition of statutory rape- some states don't even use that term at all, or it is buried deep within the code.

The paragraphs below refer to a chart in the document I linked above, found here-http://www.hhs.gov/opa/pubs/statutory-rape-state-laws.pdf (Page 7)

Quote:
*Age differential. A number of state codes specify age ranges outside of which parties
cannot consent to sex. In State B, sex with an individual under 16 years of age is illegal if the
other party is four or more years older. Thus, sexual relations between a 15-year-old and an
18-year-old would be legal, while the same relationship between a 15-year-old and a 21-
year old would not.
*Minimum age of victim. Some state codes define the age below which an individual cannot
legally engage in sexual activities, regardless of the age of the other party. For example, in
State C, the age of consent is 16, but under certain circumstances—that is, the defendant is
no more than four years older and under age 19—individuals who are at least 13 years of
age can legally engage in sexual activities. It is illegal to engage in sexual activities with
someone under 13 years of age under all circumstances.
*Minimum age of defendant. Some states define the age below which an individual cannot
be prosecuted for having sex with a minor. In State D, sexual activity with someone below
the age of consent is only illegal if the defendant is at least 18 years of age.
Thus, in order to understand a specific state’s laws, one must look to see which of these
elements is included.

Quote:
State civil codes spell out reporting requirements. They detail who must report (i.e., mandated
reporters) and where reports must be made (generally child protective services, law
enforcement, or both). In almost all states, the reporting requirements related to statutory rape
are found in the section of the civil code that describes child abuse reporting. As such, the
requirement to report statutory rape is generally dictated by states’ definition of child abuse—
which varies substantially by state. Statutory rape is not always a reportable offense.
A primary factor in determining whether statutory rape is child abuse is the relationship between
the victim and the defendant. In roughly one-third of state codes, statutory rape is only considered
child abuse—and therefore a reportable offense—if it is perpetrated or allowed by a person
responsible for the care of the child.

It would be a good thing to review the laws in your state. If they do not provide enough protection for young people against child predation, start writing letters and making phone calls. We can talk about this until our fingers fall off, but there are things we can DO.

Quote:
To varying degrees of specificity, all state statutes provide mandated reporters with instructions
for the reporting process
. States generally require that mandated reporters notify the
appropriate authorities within one to three days of encountering a case of suspected abuse.

Mandated reporters can usually make an initial report orally, via telephone. Approximately
two-thirds of states require mandated reporters to follow their initial report with a more
detailed written report.


Did Pastor Phelps meet these requirements? Assuming the laws have not changed significantly since the initial incident, it seems he did.
Quote:
State Response
Each state summary highlights the required response of the state and local agencies that receive
reports of suspected child abuse. State statutes vary in the level of detail they provide.
Generally they include requirements addressing which entities, if any, the agency receiving the
initial report must notify, the timeframe for this notification, and the requirements for
investigating reported abuse.
States have two primary objectives when responding to allegations of child abuse: (1) ensuring
the health, safety, and well-being of the child in question, taking the necessary steps to prevent
further harm and (2) conducting an investigation to determine if the reported abuse constitutes
a criminal act and, when appropriate, prosecuting offenders.

In most states, the responsibility for the initial investigation of reported child abuse falls to law
enforcement, the state agency responsible for child protective services, or some combination of
the two.

I know many of us have read those cute little detective stories, where the cat-sitter or the caterer or the little old lady down the street investigate and solve the crime, but those stories are found in the Fiction section of the library for a reason.

Since laws do vary from state to state, it behooves church leadership to get accurate information specifically about their state, and not rely on the vague information received on the news, or Wikipedia, or an internet forum.

Many states provide training courses for volunteers to become certified rape counselors. Folks in church leadership/staff positions could benefit from such training.

I agree there is merit to the speculation that if the police had fully investigated this case when it was reported, much of this conversation would not be taking place. But as events stand, I think we all agree that Pastor Phelps could have attempted to light a fire under the police (although we do not know if that would have had an effect), and he should not have brought Tina before the church at all. His conduct both at the time and in the current situation should be evaluated by those directly involved and by ministers who have an actual relationship with him and his church.

rogercarlson's picture

Greg,

Even if the police dropped the ball, to me that still does not mitigate Phelps' actions. His testimony has some very disturbing elements. His testimony was very slick, but not very direct. His testimony indicated that he had a higher view of Willis than Anderson.

Susan,

I don't agree that his conduct should only be evaluated by those close to him. He is a leader in the FBF, he is on the board of a Christian College, and preaches at other Christian colleges. By Laurie's post above and the livewire (and transcripts yet to be released), there were some inconsistancies in his testimony. I think that is a problem. If we are going to seperate over music, then these issues at the very least need to be looked at. Obviously, the people close to him should be asking these questions and I hope they are. I will now say, yet again, that had Chuck Phelps immediately made a clear statement similar to ABWE's this would not have blown to what it did.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

rogercarlson wrote:

Susan,

I don't agree that his conduct should only be evaluated by those close to him. He is a leader in the FBF, he is on the board of a Christian College, and preaches at other Christian colleges. By Laurie's post above and the livewire (and transcripts yet to be released), there were some inconsistancies in his testimony. I think that is a problem. If we are going to seperate over music, then these issues at the very least need to be looked at. Obviously, the people close to him should be asking these questions and I hope they are. I will now say, yet again, that had Chuck Phelps immediately made a clear statement similar to ABWE's this would not have blown to what it did.


Those who have a relationship with Pastor Phelps on some level- members of the same association, for instance, or those who cooperate with him in ministry efforts- are the only ones who are going to be 'separating' from him in reality. And they are the ones who are best able to interact, counsel, correct, and hold him responsible for his conduct. This topic (of enacting church discipline) is being discussed elsewhere on SI- and one of the aspects constantly brought forward is ' how do you separate from someone with whom you have no relationship?'.

I agree that the information we have about how the situation was handled clearly indicates that some action should be taken- but again- who is best equipped to take action but those with whom he is associated and cooperates with in his ministry? I mean, what 'action' are you going to take? KWIM? Talking on the internet is not action.

Quote:
If we are going to seperate over music...

I'll leave the answer to that to whomever the "we" is...

Edited to add:

Quote:
Even if the police dropped the ball, to me that still does not mitigate Phelps' actions. His testimony has some very disturbing elements. His testimony was very slick, but not very direct. His testimony indicated that he had a higher view of Willis than Anderson.

I don't think anyone is trying to 'mitigate' Pastor Phelps' handling of the incident. But- he reported the incident to police. His view of the situation is not evidence of anything and did not impact law enforcement's ability to investigate. If they had investigated the charges immediately, it would not be a cold case and it is possible that there would be actual physical evidence available. Instead, it's years later with alot of "he said, she said" going on. The police are responsible for the fact that delaying the investigation seriously diminished the legal system's ability to enact justice quickly and effectively. Attempting to lay this at Pastor Phelps' doorstep is ridiculous. Hold him accountable for what he actually did- I think there's plenty there to deal with.

I think one of the speculations/accusations that needs to be proven is that Pastor Phelps acted out of malice and not ignorance. We know so much more about child sexual molestation today than we did ten years ago, and we are viewing this case with hindsight that is more informed of these issues. Let's just keep that in mind during this virtual autopsy.

rogercarlson's picture

Susan,

What I have decided specifically is this. I will not go to an FBF meeting while he is still in leadership (nor anywhere he preaches for that matter). If my children end up at a college where he preaches, I will not allow them to sit in chapel that day. If/when he repents, I will obviously change that. I am not going to secondary separate from others at this pont though. Smile

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Jay's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
LJ Moody wrote:
Obviously this is a matter of Chuck Phelps saying the police did not call him back and Det. Gagnon saying he did call Chuck and got no response. With the word rape not being used and no cooperation, Gagnon tabled the investigation. Was that wrong? If Chuck Phelps did not believe by his own testimony it was forcible rape, then I am not so sure the majority of blame can fall to Det. Gagnon.

Did he or did he not know Tina's age? The statutory rape aspect of the case should have been sufficient for him to be much more aggressive. Why would he need any contact with Pastor Phelps to continue the investigation? At this point, Tina was still in New Hampshire. He clearly dropped the ball, regardless of any excuses he tries to make.


It doesn't matter if she was fifteen or sixteen. Phelps' first call should have been to the police so that they can sort it out. Phelps isn't a lawyer or a judge - he's a pastor. His legal responsibility is to report it, which he says he did. Any pastor worth their salt ought to know to call the cops when there is confession of sex with a minor by an adult.

In regards to her age - I believe that Tina was attacked by Willis at fifteen, but gave birth to the child at sixteen. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Is there any evidence that he only made one call to the cops? I keep hearing that there's only one call placed to the NHPD (made as statement of fact), but I seem to recall that Phelps claimed he made several.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

mounty's picture

What action do "we" take, we who do not have regular or even occasional contact with Phelps? Simple. We take a page from this very trial and make noise - lots of noise - to those who *can* hold him accountable. It's all fine and well to say, "well, the people who know him and work with him should hold him accountable," but who does that include? His congregation and his ministry friends. I would hope his congregation could make an issue out of it but having traveled extensively throughout Fundamentalism and having seen a great many of those congregations, I very much doubt that will happen. Congregations are not encouraged to hold their pastors really, truly accountable. Hopefully he has at least one ministry friend who will prevail upon him, but whether you call it a "network," a "notwork," or a "circle" the point is that most of the Fundamentalist "fellowships" are little more than back-slapping good-ol'-boy clubs. So the way I see it, the way to get things done is, indeed, to talk on the internet. Talk over email. Call. Fax. Write letters. There's no such thing as a pastor's "boss" in Fundamentalism but there political power players, and if enough people bug them enough times it may become impolitic to keep him or his church in any position of importance, and without that umbrella of "importance" it should be far easier to see justice done. Call it the "Luke 18" approach. So who are the judges that need to be bugged? Start with John Vaughan, Kevin Schall, and Gordon Dickson, Phelps' fellow board members at the FBFI. Reach out to his former college and seminary professors and mentors. Find out who's head of the deacon board at Colonial Hills and call him. If enough people start calling for a proper reckoning and accountability over this matter, someone will take notice - either Phelps or another mover/shaker in the IFB world - and things will happen.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

rogercarlson wrote:
Susan,

What I have decided specifically is this. I will not go to an FBF meeting while he is still in leadership (nor anywhere he preaches for that matter). If my children end up at a college where he preaches, I will not allow them to sit in chapel that day. If/when he repents, I will obviously change that. I am not going to secondary separate from others at this pont though. Smile


I'm of the same mind. And I'm also doing what I can to make pastors in our area aware of this case, and not just for general information's sake. If they are members of the FBF or go to their conferences, then perhaps a certain amount of applied pressure (I hate the word 'boycott', but it probably applies to an extent) will help the powers-that-be take this problem seriously. But I'm not very knowledgeable about conferences and associations, as I tend to avoid them. I think I'm allergic. Bleah

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
Hopefully he has at least one ministry friend who will prevail upon him, but whether you call it a "network," a "notwork," or a "circle" the point is that most of the Fundamentalist "fellowships" are little more than back-slapping good-ol'-boy clubs.

That's a broad indictment of a large number of people.

If calls for accountability are made by people with a humble attitude using reasonable language, then progress might be made. But the hyperbole and hysteria I've seen undermines credibility and results in the message being ignored. Then all the squeeing about cover-ups and insensitive, immoral leadership can escalate, and nothing is accomplished. If the true purpose is for the benefit of victims- past, present, and potential- then methods should be taken into account and communications about this done properly.

Jay's picture

mounty wrote:
What action do "we" take, we who do not have regular or even occasional contact with Phelps? Simple. We take a page from this very trial and make noise - lots of noise - to those who *can* hold him accountable. It's all fine and well to say, "well, the people who know him and work with him should hold him accountable," but who does that include? His congregation and his ministry friends. I would hope his congregation could make an issue out of it but having traveled extensively throughout Fundamentalism and having seen a great many of those congregations, I very much doubt that will happen. Congregations are not encouraged to hold their pastors really, truly accountable. Hopefully he has at least one ministry friend who will prevail upon him, but whether you call it a "network," a "notwork," or a "circle" the point is that most of the Fundamentalist "fellowships" are little more than back-slapping good-ol'-boy clubs. So the way I see it, the way to get things done is, indeed, to talk on the internet. Talk over email. Call. Fax. Write letters. There's no such thing as a pastor's "boss" in Fundamentalism but there political power players, and if enough people bug them enough times it may become impolitic to keep him or his church in any position of importance, and without that umbrella of "importance" it should be far easier to see justice done. Call it the "Luke 18" approach. So who are the judges that need to be bugged? Start with John Vaughan, Kevin Schall, and Gordon Dickson, Phelps' fellow board members at the FBFI. Reach out to his former college and seminary professors and mentors. Find out who's head of the deacon board at Colonial Hills and call him. If enough people start calling for a proper reckoning and accountability over this matter, someone will take notice - either Phelps or another mover/shaker in the IFB world - and things will happen.

Tom-

Generally, I'd agree with you. But what do you do in a situation where:

1. All we had (at the beginning) was he said, she said
2. "Reporters" on the internet saying things...I could start a blog saying my name is Christie and I was attacked by you. How do we verify that?
3. The person who makes the accusation later is found to be lying? Or the people pushing the claim are lying? http://news.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2FAB%2F20110531%2F... ]I saw this earlier today :

Quote:
A few hours later, police showed up at the store and started asking questions of Peters' boss. Peters soon was in a room with police who said they had to take him in for questioning.

"It was quite embarrassing," he said.

It wasn't until he got to the police office when Det. Dana Jones told him he'd been accused of rape.

He was shocked. He had no criminal record - not even a speeding ticket -- and a work history of more than 25 years. He offered his DNA and to take a polygraph, which police arranged.

His company suspended him and he had no idea why he'd been accused.

"For three days, I was suspended and was looking at rape charges," Peters said.

"I was absolutely devastated. I was sick for three weeks. I couldn't sleep. I didn't eat. It was something you don't even discuss."

During Peters' questioning, Jones pushed him. She quickly became suspicious of the allegations and pushed for St. Charles also to be aggressively questioned.

On March 15, St. Charles admitted she made the story up.

"It was terrible. I'm glad she was so tough," Peters said of Jones.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Greg Linscott's picture

rogercarlson wrote:
Greg,

Even if the police dropped the ball, to me that still does not mitigate Phelps' actions. His testimony has some very disturbing elements. His testimony was very slick, but not very direct. His testimony indicated that he had a higher view of Willis than Anderson.

I am not arguing that it does. I am only observing that mishandling does not necessarily equal cover-up.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

mounty's picture

Susan,

I stand by my comments about the FBFI and other "fellowships," with the understanding that it's not a broad indictment of the individuals in that group. Individuals are smart; people are generally dumb. What I mean is that while there are probably good men in all these fellowships, my experience is that when they all get together as a group, the group tends to do nearly nothing of any significance. Everyone's so conciliatory and mindful of the almighty concept of "independent" that all they can muster are non-binding resolutions. I've been there. I've heard the "debate" over these resolutions. After three FBFI meetings, including one at Trinity a few years back, I'm firmly convinced the group will continue to be corporately anemic without a lot of pressure behind them. And I'm not arguing that we should all be shrill and conspiratorial. There's a difference between "strongly-worded" and "shrill." Being "shrill" is just an emotional outburst; writing a "strongly-worded" letter is the product of knowing the facts or details and using logic to make a point. The court has placed its stamp of approval on the facts given from Tina's side of the story. Where Phelps' facts differ from hers they should at the very least be considered suspect. And I think with that kind of official validation we can proceed to make a logical case that Phelps' mishandling was egregious enough to warrant his removal from public office on the grounds that he is ill-equipped to handle this kind of situation and therefore cannot be trusted to do so in the future.

Jay,

Court cases are designed to settle the "he said/she said" question. The court has ruled: "she" said the truth, and "he" did not. Her story met the burden of proof and is now considered the official record. While there's a place to ask these kinds of hypothetical questions - and it's good that we ask them, because we should be prepared ahead of time for a wide variety of situations - the facts in this case have been established, at least judicially, and in light of those facts I make my suggestion above.

LJ Moody's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:
Still, consensual or not, the law was broken. Statutory rape is still a criminal offense (even though a jury deemed it was otherwise). Once Phelps reported it, the PD should have pursued and investigated it to find out the details. As others have pointed out, there is certainly evidence to conclude that, at the very least, Phelps demonstrated errors in judgment- I am not disputing that. I am observing that those errors should have been overcome much sooner if law enforcement had done their job properly.

The jury did not deem it otherwise--it found him guilty of both statutory and forcible rape. It's a little complicated because Willis did plead to the one charge where there was DNA. The jury also convicted on a fifth alternative charge.

The officer in question has retired, so I am guessing there won't be an official investigation for fault on the PD end. I guess what you're missing is the whole conclusion of the trial testimony itself. The officer had a mom who would not cooperate, insisting that the daughter did not want to be contacted (not true, the daughter would have spoken with the police if the mom had given her contact info) and he said under oath that he responded to the DCYF referral by attempting to contact Chuck Phelps and that Phelps did not return his call. The mom, under oath on the stand, stonewalled the prosecutor to even admit her daughter was 15 for a portion of the summer. She kept insisting she was 16--correcting the prosecutor. It was painful to watch.

A report was not filed with the police. If Chuck made the call as he asserts, he would have been given information for how to file a report. He did not file a report. This was made clear at trial.

Chris Leaf (the mom) kept asserting on the stand that the officer knew where to find her because he had contact with her through her husband's child sexual assault conviction. But she resisted answering prosecution questions, giving combative answers. For instance, when asked if she told the police where her daughter was, her answer was "they didn't ask." It took many, many questions for the prosecutor to get her to reveal that for any question she was asked, she just kept saying her daughter didn't want to talk to police.

As someone that sat through the trial, I would actually say the mother bears the most responsibility for obstruction. That is my opinion after hours and hours of testimony over the course of a week.

That said, I also sat there stunned and grieved to hear that my former boss and pastor did so little to protect the young girls in the congregation after Willis said more than once that he was the aggressor. Since there was testimony indicating Willis' movement and activity in the church was not restricted and a clear open message about what really happened was not given to the congregation, I am glad I was not a parent with young daughters attending Trinity at the time.

LJ Moody's picture

Susan R wrote:
I don't want to confuse anyone http://www.hhs.gov/opa/pubs/statutory-rape-state-laws.pdf ]with facts here, but it doesn't matter if Pastor Phelps thought Tina Anderson was the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe- his opinion is not evidence, and would not be considered as evidence. Could we please bury that horse? It's not only dead, it's worm food.

Except that in this case, his opinion influenced his action/lack of action, and that *was* evidence at the trial.

Quote:
Did Pastor Phelps meet these requirements? Assuming the laws have not changed significantly since the initial incident, it seems he did.

Except that if he made the call as he asserts, he was told he would need to file a written report which he did not do. Since there is no recording of the call and the law was clear at the time, if he shifts blame to the police for not sending him a paper, it was still a responsibility he knew he had, by his own testimony.

Quote:
Since laws do vary from state to state, it behooves church leadership to get accurate information specifically about their state, and not rely on the vague information received on the news, or Wikipedia, or an internet forum.

Many states provide training courses for volunteers to become certified rape counselors. Folks in church leadership/staff positions could benefit from such training.

Agreed. http://www.netgrace.org offers such training and resources. Liberty University is one of only three law schools that offers specific training to law students on the complexities of dealing with child sexual assault. G.R.A.C.E. is housed on their campus.

The purpose of Chuck Phelps testimony was to give supporting evidence for why Tina did not come forward sooner than when the police contacted her in the spring of 2010. Once the transcripts are released, everyone will have a clearer picture of why the prosecution asked what it did.

Greg Linscott's picture

Quote:
I guess what you're missing is the whole conclusion of the trial testimony itself.

I'm not sure what it is you think I am missing. You are saying then, Mrs. Moody, that Phelps is lying when he says that he placed calls? I am not asking whether or not he filed an official report. That is a different matter.

I do think that your last paragraph is the biggest issue in regards to Phelps' management of the situation. Reports I recall seeing do affirm that he placed calls to Concord PD, and that they in fact did begin to pursue the matter before it was eventually dropped because they could not locate the victim. Was it concluded otherwise in court?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Leah Hayes's picture

LJ Moody, I appreciate your willingness to post and bring clarification to the testimony. Thank you for taking time to do so.

LJ Moody's picture

Susan R wrote:
I think one of the speculations/accusations that needs to be proven is that Pastor Phelps acted out of malice and not ignorance. We know so much more about child sexual molestation today than we did ten years ago, and we are viewing this case with hindsight that is more informed of these issues. Let's just keep that in mind during this virtual autopsy.

I thought I had read all the discussions about this issue, but I don't remember seeing an accusation that Chuck Phelps acted with malice.

Based only on the testimony at trial I can say that no such accusation could be made with merit. Chuck testified that he did what he did because:
1. he believed Ernie
2. he thought Ernie's family was more at risk from fallout than Tina
*there is at least one other reason that came out in discovery but did not end up getting made public at trial. It could have been a part of a rebuttal witness testimony but was deemed not needed for the case by the prosecution. Two witnesses that confronted Chuck Phelps after the church discipline/confession/compassion session both said they were told that Tina was young and would be able to get over it. Ernie had a family that needed to be protected. This does not meet the legal or moral standard of malice.

Based only on the testimony at trial I can also say that the accusation that Chuck did what he did out of ignorance is also without merit. Chuck simply believed he was doing the best thing. He knew he was supposed to file a written report and he did not do it.

Chuck has said on his own website he would not have a young girl come before the congregation like that now. It seems that if that is the case, he should have had no problem apologizing to Tina for at least that one thing alone.

LJ Moody's picture

Jay C. wrote:
In regards to her age - I believe that Tina was attacked by Willis at fifteen, but gave birth to the child at sixteen. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Is there any evidence that he only made one call to the cops? I keep hearing that there's only one call placed to the NHPD (made as statement of fact), but I seem to recall that Phelps claimed he made several.

Jay, you are correct according to the testimony and documents placed in evidence at the trial. She was 15 when raped and 16 when she gave birth.

On the witness stand, Chuck did testify to one call. The Concord Police do not have a record of the call. However, at the time (and still to this day), a call is not enough to report. A written report is required. Chuck said he was told papers for him to fill out would be sent but he did not get them. By his testimony he knew he was supposed to fill out a written report and he did not do it. Concord Police also testified that a written report was never made.

LJ Moody's picture

Jay C. wrote:
Generally, I'd agree with you. But what do you do in a situation where:

1. All we had (at the beginning) was he said, she said
2. "Reporters" on the internet saying things...I could start a blog saying my name is Christie and I was attacked by you. How do we verify that?
3. The person who makes the accusation later is found to be lying? Or the people pushing the claim are lying?

Jay,
I do not understand your illustration. It seemed at first that you are talking about the Anderson/Willis situation, but then you threw in #3. Tina wasn't found to be lying. The 12 jurors unanimously found that Tina was telling the truth after seeing all the evidence and hearing all the testimony. They found Ernie Willis guilty on all four counts (plus he claimed guilt on the one count he pled to).

Can you please clarify? I find your statement very confusing and do not want to assume motive on your part.

Thanks,
Laurie Moody

LJ Moody's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:
Quote:
I guess what you're missing is the whole conclusion of the trial testimony itself.

I'm not sure what it is you think I am missing. You are saying then, Mrs. Moody, that Phelps is lying when he says that he placed calls? I am not asking whether or not he filed an official report. That is a different matter.

I do think that your last paragraph is the biggest issue in regards to Phelps' management of the situation. Reports I recall seeing do affirm that he placed calls to Concord PD, and that they in fact did begin to pursue the matter before it was eventually dropped because they could not locate the victim. Was it concluded otherwise in court?

I apologize if I offended Greg. What I meant was your question focused on Chuck alone and what he did and did the police bear more blame for the resolution of this case many years ago. Chuck's less than aggressive pursuit of action alone is not the only factor to judge police action/lack of action. I meant to say that the entirety of testimony--especially Chris Leaf's adds to the big picture for the decision of the detective to table the investigation.

I'm not in any way shape or form attempting to even suggest that Chuck is lying about making a call. I'm trying to be very specific with my words--only focusing on what was given as testimony. I do not personally doubt that he made a call, but what I am trying to add here to the discussion is not my personal opinion. At least I *think* I'm mostly accomplishing that. I'm trying to focus on testimony because I was there at the trial.

Does that make sense? I hope that is understandable. Communicating with gaps in responses via written response creates challenges. I think this would sound different if we were in a big room together.

LJ Moody's picture

Leah Hayes wrote:
LJ Moody, I appreciate your willingness to post and bring clarification to the testimony. Thank you for taking time to do so.

Thanks, Leah. I am only doing so because so many of the posts I have read did not reflect evidence or testimony at trial. I thought it might be helpful for consideration.

Jay's picture

Thanks for clarifying...I appreciate it, especially in charged waters like this.

I originally was thinking of the Willis trial when I wrote #1. Back in the very beginning, all I knew was what was being passed around via the rumor chain, so that was the first thing that I thought of; I believe I came out early when this hit SI and said that I felt like we needed actual, observable, verifiable facts to properly discuss the matter. If I could go back now and override all other mods, I think the site should have linked to news reports and then the trial info, but left the comments closed to avoid against speculation and rumormongering...but even that poses problems. This is the biggest IFB story in arguably five/six years and we don't allow comments? On a discussion board?

After a moment's reflection, though, I wanted propose other real life situations that I've run across, so I then added #2 and #3. So they are not related to Willis' trial at all.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Greg Linscott's picture

Quote:
I apologize if I offended Greg.

No offense taken. It seems to me that if there was something to focus on with Phelps' role, it would be what you mentioned in http://sharperiron.org/comment/30517#comment-30517 ]#146 , rather than be held accountable for the cover-up. There is enough shared responsibility between the PD, Mrs. Leaf, etc. that even if Phelps had done everything picture-perfect, things still may not have proceeded as they should have (at least in theory). However, I am not sure who else would have been in a position to influence the outcome of Willis continuing in the functions and roles he did in the church (and how things were presented to the congregation) other than CP.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Leah Hayes's picture

Laurie, It is very helpful to have someone share the testimony that was given at trial. I have heard that someone is making an effort to get a full transcript of the trial and to post that online. That would be helpful for everyone to see.

I also appreciate the tone and manner in which you have communicated. Some have mentioned those who are over the top and I don't think anyone could rightly accuse you of doing that here.

A pastor in the service of God, caring for the bride of Christ has a greater responsibility to care for the flock beyond the bare minimums that the law requires. It would seem that Phelps did not meet the bare minimum requirement as he knew that more than a phone call was required--that in fact a written report was required under the law. I find that more than a little disturbing that he did not follow through.

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