Mixed verdict in pastor's sex assault trial

CTV, Toronto/January 11, 2008

A jury has delivered a mixed verdict in the sexual assault trial of a Toronto pastor, convicting him of sexually assaulting one female parishioner while acquitting him of raping another woman.

Jurors deliberated for three days before returning the verdict Thursday night against 59-year-old Rev. Frank Lawrence.

The spiritual leader of was accused of forcing sex on two women who sought his so-called healing powers when he ran Toronto Mount Zion Revival Church of the Apostles, in the city's west end.

The incidents were alleged to have occurred between 2000 and 2005.

Lawrence maintained he had consensual sex with the women, who bore his children.

The women testified they paid Lawrence more than $100 for nude "healing" baths and naked rubdowns aimed at ridding them of evil spirits.

The complainants said they gave in to unwanted sex with the pastor numerous times because they feared his influence over the spirit world.

The jury found Lawrence guilty of sexually assaulting the 29-year-old woman, but acquitted him of charges involving the 45-year-old, who said she was raped during a ritual beside a freshly dug grave.

The Crown had argued Lawrence abused his position of trust over the women who came to him with emotional or physical problems.

Lawrence was also acquitted of several charges of assault and threatening involving the women.

The pastor has 11 children with various women from his congregation. Court documents show his monthly income in 2005 exceeded $19,000, CTV Toronto's Chris Eby reported.

Lawrence is to return for sentencing on Feb. 28.

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