Court rules against Word of Faith Fellowship leader

On cyberstalking, harassing phone calls

The Daily Courier/May. 31, 2015

By Jean Gordon

Forest City -- Text messages sent to the leader of the Word of Faith Fellowship pastor Jane Whaley by a former church member were ruled not criminal Friday afternoon following a District Court trial.

Jerry Cooper, former member of the church, was charged with harassing phone calls and cyberstalking against Whaley for calls and text messages he sent her from January 2013 to March 2013. Whaley took the warrants out on Cooper in 2013 but according to court officials the hearing did not come to court until Friday since Cooper had been out of the country.  

Judge Dennis Redwing of Gastonia ruled the State failed to prove its case against Cooper and found him not guilty of cyberstalking and dismissed the charges of harassing telephone calls prior to the not guilty verdict.

Prosecuting the case or North Carolina was Assistant District Attorney Roger McCallum.

Testimony in the case began at 11:15 a.m. and by 3:30 p.m. Whaley, church member and attorney Josh Farmer, church member Prisicilla Rezende and Cooper had taken the witness stand on Friday.

"I am glad justice was served and I hope it will be served for others in the future," Cooper said as he walked from the courthouse Friday afternoon.

He said he plans to return to Uganda where he is a missionary.

Whaley, who was surrounded by her daughter and other church members had no other comment other than to say, "let's just let it go." She said she told the truth and believed the messages were meant to harass her.

The charges against Cooper came as a result of numerous text messages, that were placed into evidence in court, and phone calls to Whaley from January to March 2013.

In January 2013 Cooper was in District Court on charges for stalking four WOFF church members. The judge in that case dismissed all charges against the church members. 

On the witness stand Friday, Farmer, who represented the church members in the 2014 cases, said after the judge dismissed the charges,  Cooper was told "in open court" not to contact Whaley or the church members by phone, text and not to come back to the church. Farmer did confirm later that although he made those requests in open court, they were denied by the judge.

Whaley described the text messages as being derogatory against her and her family and although she was not "frightened" there was "fear." She said she was afraid Cooper would harm her.

The texts contained numerous Bible scripture verses including "Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord." In one text Cooper said, "You, Jezebel" referring to Jezebel in Revelation.

Cooper said he was not calling Whaley a Jezebel but said Whaley had the Spirit of Jezebel who was a domineering, controlling, wicked and unclean  woman. 

Text also includes references to adultery which Cooper said was referring to "spiritual adultery" and he was not referring to sexual sins.

Cooper's attorney Paul Ditz of Shelby asked Cooper about the reasons for texting scriptures to Whaley. He said he never meant to harm Whaley or to frighten her but he was trying to get her back on the right path.

"I was trying to show Jane the way," Cooper testified. He also told the court he was a minister during the time he was at the WOFF and he wanted to help her.

 "It is not true that he was a minister,"' she said. 

Cooper said he believed Whaley was going down the wrong path and leading the church in the wrong direction and the texts were to bring her back. 

The text also referred to Whaley being in danger of God's judgement.  "I was trying to convince her to get on the right path," Cooper said. "It was not intended to harass her. It was out of love of Jane. I have a great love for Jane," Cooper testified. 

McCallum asked Cooper if all ministers believe their doctrine is correct and he said that was correct.

"Then why are you trying to change her doctrine?" McCallum asked.

The harsassing telephone calls  were in reference to two calls made to Whaley about four months apart. 

Rezende said she answered one of the calls at the church one Sunday evening and Cooper was "insistent" about talking to Whaley although he had been told numeorus time she was not at the church. 

In the telephone call, that was also played in court Friday, Cooper was asking for retribution from Whaley to pay for the clothes, food and shelter he provided for a former church member. Although Cooper voluntarily took care of the church member, he testified that after the member recanted his testimony against the church he felt Whaley owed him the money. Cooper said on the voice message if he didn't get the payment he could go to the news media.

"He said he'd go to the media . . . that's a threat," Whaley said. 

 "I changed the locks on my doors. I was afraid he would harm me," she said. 

The judge dismissed the harassing phone call charges.

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