Charges reduced against Christian boot camp employees

Associated Press/April 29, 2008

Corpus Christi, Texas - A judge reduced felony charges against the director of a Christian boot camp and an employee to simple assault in connection with the alleged dragging of a 15-year-old girl behind a van after she fell behind during a morning run.

Charles Eugene Flowers and Stephanie Bassitt of San Antonio-based Love Demonstrated Ministries were on trial for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Those charges were reduced Monday by Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who was swayed by arguments by defense lawyers that the van could not be considered a deadly weapon as described in the indictment.

If convicted, Flowers and Bassitt could have faced as many as 20 years in prison and as much as a $10,000 fine. A conviction on the misdemeanor simple assault charge carries as much as a year in county jail and as much as a $4,000 fine.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported the reduced charges Monday on its Web site.

Flowers and Bassitt are on trial for allegedly tying a 15-year-old girl to the van with a rope and then dragging her last June at a Christian boot camp, according to an arrest affidavit. Flowers, the camp's director, allegedly ordered Bassitt to run alongside the girl after she fell behind. When the girl stopped running, Bassitt allegedly yelled at her and pinned her to the ground while Flowers tied the rope to her, according to the affidavit.

The girl suffered scrapes and bruises.

The 32-day boot camp for girls ages 13 to 19 includes 28 days at a facility near San Antonio, then four days at a camp in Banquete, about 10 miles west of Corpus Christi.

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