Jury selection begins for minister accused in member beating

Source: Associated Press

By MITCH WEISS and HOLBROOK MOHR

RUTHERFORDTON, N.C. (AP) — Jury selection began Tuesday for a North Carolina church minister accused of beating a man to expel his “homosexual demons.”

Brooke Covington, 58, a longtime minister at Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina, is the first of five church members to face trial in the case. Each defendant will be tried separately. Seven jurors had been selected by Tuesday afternoon; selection was to continue Wednesday.

Covington has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping and assaulting former church member Matthew Fenner in January 2013. If convicted, Covington faces up to two years in prison.

Fenner, 23, said he was leaving a prayer service Jan. 27, 2013, when nearly two dozen people surrounded him in the sanctuary. He said they slapped, punched, choked and blasted him — a church practice that involves intense screaming — for two hours as they tried to expel his “homosexual demons.”

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