Owen Sound — Disgraced Chatsworth church leader Fred King, known to his parishioners simply as “The Prophet,” was sentenced today to 18 months jail followed by two years probation.
His church, which came to public attention first through a W5 television expose, has disbanded, according to defence lawyer Paul Mergler.
King, 57, pleaded guilty in May to nine assaults which took place between Dec. 12, 1988 and Aug. 10, 2008, mostly in Chatsworth Township or elsewhere in Grey County, and in one case in Peel Region, involving four church members.
The abuse included squeezing a child’s hand with crushing force for fighting with a sister, and beating a teen in church in front of its members after she’d tried to run away. King also beat a young man stripped of clothes in front of his mother, leaving him standing outside for hours at night as mosquitoes bit him.
Grey County Crown attorney Michael Martin said King, who led the church since 1986, was “all powerful within that religious denomination” and often preached for hours on end. He alone decided when behaviour needed “correction” and what form it took.
King, a tall, heavyset man, would “sadistically humiliate and repeatedly assault women . . . and children with complete impunity,” Martin said.
This breach of trust was often carried out in front of the congregation, Martin noted. Victims worked in “church-controlled jobs, either as farm labour or within the printing business.”
King had nothing to say when given the opportunity to speak in court Wednesday.
King admitted in the Superior Court of Justice in May to a litany of physical abuse, often designed to humiliate, something Justice Clayton Conlan said he found particularly disturbing as he accepted the sentence recommended by Crown and defence.
He called King’s abuse of his church members a “gross violation” of King’s position of trust. Emotional scars left, he suspects, will never heal. The “sordid” facts were the primary aggravating factor in deciding the sentence.
But to his credit, King pleaded guilty, saving the justice system time and avoiding aggravation the victims would have had to endure at trial. He’s a first offender, Conlan said.
King’s victims in the charges he admitted to include three males between 11 and 19 years of age at the time, and Carol Christie. She and husband John Christie did not attend the sentencing because they attended a funeral instead.
Only Christie, 63, of Owen Sound, may be named under terms of a publication ban, which was lifted on her name with her agreement. The ban was imposed to protect the privacy of the other victims at the Crown’s request.
After a particularly severe and humiliating attack in front of parishioners, which was detailed in court, Christie ran from the church in March 2008, never to return. Two of the charges King pleaded to related to assaults on her when she was roughly 35 to 55 years old.
Christie came forward and was featured on a W5 investigative report, and in local media in 2012, which detailed abuse allegations. The television report led the OPP to investigate, Martin said.
Christie and her husband wrote a book about her experiences in the church.
A former church member has alleged that Fred King had many wives at once who were handed down from his father, Stan King. But no polygamy charges ever resulted from the 16-month police investigation.
Among charges that were withdrawn Wednesday were six allegations of sexual misconduct including on a young girl and a woman. In two cases the charges alleged repeated sexual assaults. The Crown said he stands behind the credibility of Christie, one of those complaints.
Defence lawyer Mergler said late disclosure of information led to the plea arrangement and withdrawal of the sex related charges.
Mergler, said its been tough on his client while facing these charges and before, when a civil suit was settled with a number of complainants who all received “very significant” damage awards.
So it could be argued, he said, financial “restitution” has already been made to the extent possible. He also said there were “numerous and huge triable issues” in this case which had been set for three weeks of trial before a judge alone.
“There have been death threats,” against King, at least one of which police were told about and which led to imposition of a peace bond, Mergler said. “There was vandalism, including people urinating on the gates to the property. There has been some effective banishment and public vilification, one could say.”
King’s “health has suffered” from stress-related issues which arose with this court matter.
A term of bail required him not to live at home in Chatsworth, but instead in Oakville with his wife and brother Joe, one of his bail guarantors, who died this summer. That required Fred to take on many more duties in the family printing plant, which will miss him while he’s in jail, Mergler said.
Letters from three of King’s children, all adults now, and from his wife, who attended court Wednesday, were submitted for the judge to consider. They work for the family printing business too. “The church has been disbanded. So so all of those people are there because they want to be,” Mergler said.
King always “adamantly denied” any of the sexual charges, he noted. But his crimes, court case precedents and terms of the Criminal Code all “cry out for a jail term” in this case, he said.
“Clearly the time for impunity has past.”
Fred King’s brother, Judson King, is charged with assault with a weapon, sexual assault and three counts of assault between 1981 and 2007. He is to appear in assignment court in the Superior Court of Justice Nov. 7.