Internet evangelist faces 3 trials in sex cases

Orlando Sentinel/October 29, 2005
By Erin Ailworth

DeLand -- An Internet evangelist accused of sexually abusing and molesting three children will be tried separately for each case, officials said.

Charles Michael Balfe, 60, of DeLand sat quietly in the courtroom Friday as Circuit Judge S. James Foxman heard graphic testimony from Balfe's three accusers and two women detailing the sex acts they say they performed and the beatings and punishments they say they endured.

The two women said their abuse occurred in the 1970s. The more recent cases began in the late 1990s, the other victims said.

Foxman must determine what details will be presented to the juries in each of the three cases for which Balfe will be tried.

Assistant State Attorney Tammy Jaques argued Balfe's alleged victims should be allowed to testify at all the trials. One of Balfe's attorneys, Jay Crocker, contended that some of the testimony heard Friday had no bearing on the sex-abuse cases or was too old to be reliable.

"All I remember was that I was sleeping in my bedroom and it was really late," one person said Friday while recounting the first time he claims he was sexually abused. "He [Balfe] took me into his room and made me perform oral sex on him."

Another victim said Balfe would quote Bible verses to justify having sex with her.

Before his arrest, Balfe billed himself as an Internet evangelist and operated a religious Web site as a "meeting place for fellowship with other Jesus Believers." It is unclear whether he ever held a position of authority in a brick-and-mortar church. Parishioners did confirm that Balfe was a regular attendee of the First Christian Church of DeLand.

The female victim said she went along with the abuse because she saw Balfe as a father-figure and "I was scared that he wouldn't love me."

"I felt like it was wrong," she added, "but he was telling me that I had to do it."

In previous statements to police, and again in court Friday, the alleged victims also testified that they were afraid of Balfe because of an extensive collection of weapons that he had, including handguns, rifles, knives and crossbows. Balfe also made verbal threats against their lives, the victims said.

"He said he could have me killed and he would be sitting on the police chief's lap and no one would ever believe it was him," one person said Friday.

The alleged victims first came forward about the abuse in March, after one boy saw coverage of pop star Michael Jackson's trial and realized he also had been abused.

Citing an ongoing investigation, DeLand police originally would not release the identity of the 60-year-old man they arrested and who had been booked on bail of $6 million. Jail officials then identified the man as Balfe, and his identification was confirmed Friday in court. Balfe is being held at the Volusia County Branch Jail.

Foxman is expected to rule on what evidence will be used during the trials next week.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.