Mistrial declared in Texas boot camp dragging case

A pastor and another employee were accused of injuring a teenage girl

Associated Press/May 3, 2008

Corpus Christi - A judge has declared a mistrial in the assault case against the director of a Christian boot camp and an employee accused of dragging a 15-year-old girl behind a van after she fell behind during a morning run.

District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos made the ruling Friday after a jury deliberated more than 13 hours over two days and sent out about a dozen notes, many saying they were split but leaning toward not guilty verdicts, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported on Saturday.

The final vote was 9-3 in favor of not guilty for Pastor Charles Flowers, 47, and 11-1 in favor of not guilty for Stephanie Bassitt, 21, the newspaper reported.

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

A conviction on the misdemeanor simple assault charge carried as much as a year in county jail and as much as a $4,000 fine.

Prosecutor Michael Gordon said District Attorney Carlos Valdez would decide whether to retry the case. Gordon said that from talking with the jury it seemed some were hung up on when the teen received her injuries, which were reported to be scrapes and bruises.

During the trial, defense attorneys proposed the Floresville teen, now 16, had intentionally injured herself and lied about the dragging incident. They also accused the girl's mother of trying to profit from the situation by suing both defendants, Flowers' church and the boot camp along with helping another witness write a book about the case.

The prosecution acknowledged the teen was troubled but said it was Flowers and Bassitt who went beyond discipline with a brutal and criminal act.

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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