House of Prayer defendants waive right to counsel, refuse prosecution deal

Atlanta Journal-Constitution/June 25, 2002
By Jill Young Miller

The state made an offer 11 members of the House of Prayer church immediately refused on Monday:

Accept a sentence of five years -- to be served outside of prison, on probation -- instead of going to trial and facing perhaps many more years behind bars on charges of cruelty to children and aggravated assault.

One by one, the defendants from the small, northwest Atlanta church rose in court and refused the offer from Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Pat Jackson. When Jackson asked the Rev. Arthur Allen Jr., 70, if he needed more time to think, he retorted, "Yes, if you give me a thousand years."

The 11 defendants pleaded not guilty in March to charges of cruelty to children and aggravated assault. The charges stem from an incident near the end of February 2001. Two boys, then 10 and 7 years old, were held in the air and whipped by the adults at Allen's direction, leaving wounds on their torsos, according to a 14-count indictment. The boys' parents are among the 11 charged.

All 11 church members on Monday also waived their right to have a lawyer represent them, insisting they'll do it themselves. They told Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr. they didn't want his court-appointed "stand-by" lawyers to help them with their defense, either. Bedford then released those lawyers from the courtroom.

Bedford repeatedly warned the church members, none of them lawyers, about the legal perils of attempting to represent themselves. "That is a very dangerous thing to do," Bedford said.

He reminded the Rev. Allen that -- counting all of the charges against him -- the pastor could be looking at 80 years in prison.

"I'm 70 years old," Allen told the judge. "I might be looking at death."

The church members were indicted by a Fulton County grand jury in January.

They face possible prison terms on felony charges that carry sentences of one to 20 years each. All are free on bond.

A trial is tentatively set to start in September or October.

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