Sunday, July 31, 2011

Notes from the Trial Part FIVE: Chuck Phelps testifies

***In this section of the trial notes, Bethany puts any of her own thoughts inside parentheses.

2:05pm: Chuck Phelps is on the stand. THE JURY IS NOT PRESENT.

(Micah Shaw is in the back. He went to Northland Baptist Bible College with Rachel Griffith. He currently attends Trinity Baptist Church. Several other members of Trinity Baptist Church are here, to support Chuck Phelps. There are still more supporters for Tina. About 30 some people here for Tina. Less than 10 people are here for Chuck Phelps).

Wayne Coull asks Chuck Phelps what he does as a pastor.

Phelps: I’ve done pretty comprehensive things. My charge was very straightforward. I baptize, give the sacraments, and preach God’s word. I live under congregational governance. Back in 1997, Trinity Baptist Church had about 600-700 members.

Wayne: Back in 1997, did you receive a call from Sue Cappucci?

Phelps: I received a call in October. I don’t recall what home I went to. My wife and I went there. Tina was 16.

Wayne: Did you know Tina was younger than 16 at the time of conception?

(Not sure what Phelps said.)

Phelps: I called Ernie and told him I had heard some news about him. I was investigating some things that certain church members had done. My wife and Ernie’s wife got together to meet. We set the meeting up. We, as in Ernie and I, I called the police to let them know that illegal activity had gone on. Ernie had broken his marriage vows.

Phelps: I set up to rebut as well as to protect my family. People have sent me hate mail and our church has been vandalized. The news media is telling a lot of inaccuracies.

(Chuck holds up a few letters to “prove” he has had hate mail sent to him.)

Wayne: You took notes in your journal back in 1997.

Phelps: Yes.

*Defense Attorney Donna Brown talks to Phelps, 2:18pm.

Phelps: (something about 5th amendment rights). Brian Fuller turned over my notebook to the police, and I did not give Fuller the permission to do so. I guarded my tongue with everything that Ernie Willis told me. Those notes were confidential. It was an ongoing, sexual relationship between Ernie and Tina.

(Chuck Phelps is arguing that he does not have to answer Wayne Coull if Wayne asks him a question about the notes in his notebook. Chuck is saying that as a pastor, he has counseling privileges, and that the notes he took were confidential, between him and Ernie).

*The judge is talking about voir dire, which is a preliminary examination of a witness by a judge or counsel. So that is why the jury was absent. The judge is choosing to put Chuck Phelps on the stand, with the jury present. The judge said that Chuck Phelps has no privilege, and he must answer all the questions that the attorney and DA ask him.

(Chuck was banking on that to help him. He was hoping to not have to read the notebook and he was hoping to not have to answer Wayne’s questions. He was also hoping to not have the jury present. Now Chuck has to tell the whole truth and nothing BUT the truth. Whatever is in that notebook, it is most likely going to refute anything Chuck has said so far).

*Jury enters, Chuck Phelps takes the stand.

Phelps: I had the privilege of pasturing at Trinity Baptist Church (Concord, NH) for 18 years. About 600 people were members in 1997. We had about 150-170 students enrolled in Trinity Christian School. Joel Montgomery was the youth pastor. Our church was ruled by congregational rule. Decisions get made by many people, not just me. I give guidance, not dictatorship. (Quotes a verse from Matthew 8). Someone has done something crassly violating scriptural command. Then when they don’t change, and they want to persist in that sin, we bring it before the church.

Wayne: Brought before the church to be judged and looked down on?

Phelps: No. That’s wrong. We are all sinners, including the senior pastor. (quotes a verse from Hebrews). Shunning is not the spirit of conduct at our church.

Wayne: Did your school have a handbook?

Phelps: The school had a handbook. Most schools have a handbook of sorts. Boys wore neckties, we had a dress code. Boys and girls were not allowed to date at school.

Wayne: Would you allow a girl who had gotten pregnant to come to your school?

Phelps: Our school was not equipped to deal with that kind of thing. There was a no physical contact rule at school. No kissing, no hugging, no holding hands.

(Phelps seems very comfortable. He is doing a good job articulating and expressing himself. A very polished speaker.)

Wayne: When did you first meet Tina?

Phelps: I remember the first time my wife and I went over to her house. Tina was six or seven years old and made tacos for us, they were very good.

Wayne: Were you aware that Dan Leaf had abused the children?

Phelps: I knew that Dan was incarcerated for crimes against minors. Tina never told me her dad sexually abused her. It was evident that Tina did not have a good relationship with her stepfather. She seemed to be very angry at him. Her lack of affection towards him was very apparent.

Wayne: You knew that Dan Leaf was a child molester, and that Tina did not like him. And you never stopped to ask if Tina had ever been abused by Dan?

(A brief recess right now. David Gibbs is talking with Chuck. They both just keep staring over here at Rachel. It’s really creepy. They just keep staring, not saying anything or nodding at her, just staring).

(I forgot to mention that earlier today, David Gibbs and his kid came in early and Gibbs had his son dress in a teal shirt, then made his kid who is maybe 11, sit right in the spot where Tina would be sitting. David Gibbs was sitting beside him. These are things that you would not know if you were not sitting in the courtroom. The cameras are not on, and the secretary only writes down what is said. Jocelyn Zichterman came in and went to sit in the place she had been sitting at with Tina Anderson earlier and stood toe to toe with David Gibbs and said he wasn’t going to sit there. Wayne Coull came over and had David Gibbs move. So Gibbs had his son flash the color teal, the color of abuse victims, in front of Tina and her supporters. I am not sure what the Christian lawyer was trying to prove by dressing his 11 year old kid up in teal and making him sit next to Tina’s spot. Though David Gibbs moved, his son did not. When Laurie Moody came up to the row with Tina Anderson, she indicated that Gibbs’ son needed to move away too.)

*3:08pm, Chuck is back on the stand after the break

Phelps: There was a lot of pain that day we talked to Tina. A lot of tears. Chris was there with several others. We prayed. (Chuck turns and faces the jury as he speaks). We told them, Ernie and Tina, that we’d love them and stand by them. I don’t remember who told us first that Tina was pregnant. Ernie Willis was wrong. He is roughly my age. I contacted Ernie the next day, as soon as I could. I thought that Ernie would be arrested. My first thought was for Ernie’s family. What would they do without their dad. A week ago, Mr. Sweat, a friend of ours, committed suicide. (Phelps starts crying). His little kids were left alone. I remember standing there next to his kids and his widow as they buried their father. My first thought was that Ernie would commit suicide.

Wayne: And you never thought Tina might have suicidal thoughts?

Phelps: That is unfair to say. Ernie was the first one I had thought for. I thought he would kill himself and leave his family.

(In rape cases, it is usually the VICTIM who has suicidal thoughts, NOT the perpetrator.)

Wayne tried to say something, and Chuck Phelps cut him off 3 times. He is upset at Wayne for asking him that question.

Phelps: As a pastor, every moment, every day, we have a responsibility to look out for one another. (His voice is raised, and he keeps interrupting Wayne).

Wayne: Mr. Phelps, I simply asked you a yes/no question. Please answer “yes” or “no.”

Phelps: In that context, yes.

Wayne: Were standards of good behavior violated? (Wayne asks Phelps to open up his notebook and refer to what Ernie told him the day after Tina told them she was pregnant. Wayne has asked Phelps s few times to open up to a certain page number, and read certain things).

Phelps: Ernie told me he was the aggressor. Ernie used the word “aggressor” himself. My notes say “Ernie was the aggressor, and Tina was the victim in this situation.” Ernie also told me it happened twice.

(BINGO!!! Case closed! Chuck Phelps just admitted that Ernie was the aggressor. Aggression means “forceful and overly assertive pursuit of one's aims and interests.” Chuck Phelps lied. This proves that. For everyone that says Chuck Phelps has been above board and not lying, I hope this proves to you that he blatantly lied! Chuck has claimed this whole time that it was a “consensual, dating relationship” and yet Chuck wrote in his journal that Ernie was the aggressor, and Tina was the victim. This is why Chuck did not want his notes read in court. Also, this whole time the defense attorney has been trying to say that Ernie only raped Tina once. This proves he did it twice, since he told Chuck it was twice).

Phelps: Many things here have been broadcasted inaccurately. It is tragic and sad! Before I had time to react, the Concord Monitor came out with an article that misconstrued my words and had false allegations. October 8 was when I called the police. Tina was scared. (Chuck Phelps is crying again). The biggest fear is the fear of defamation. For Ernie, it would be bad getting something wrong said about him.

Wayne: How many days did Tina stay at your house before she was sent to Colorado?

Phelps: 16 days.

Wayne: Is it true Tina was expelled from school after being raped?

Phelps: Expelled is a harsh word. We are not equipped to deal with pregnant teens at our Christian school. And Tina never used the word “rape.”

Wayne: Ok, let me give you a hypothetical. Let’s say that a 14-year-old girl who goes to your school gets kidnapped by a guy who rapes her then beats her up and leaves her out in the woods. She comes to you and tells she is pregnant. Would you expel her from your school?

Phelps: It would depend on the situation. I don’t know.

(After Phelps said this, the jury and many of the people in the courtroom shook their heads or stared at him in shock.)

(Several times, Wayne Coull has had to ask Phelps to stick to the question, because Phelps keeps going off topic, and talking instead of straight up answering the question. At one point, Wayne said, “Mr. Phelps, I am wondering, how long have you been rehearsing your answers for?” Wayne is not the only one getting frustrated with Phelps. The judge will put his hand over his face, and the jury will shake their head or stare at him with a dumb-founded look on their faces.)

Phelps: I took a risk sending Tina off to Colorado to be homeschooled. Let me take a little time to tell you about the Landrys, the family Tina stayed with. They are a great family! In fact, Mr. Landry has a rocket ship named after him.

(Umm…what does this have to do with the case at hand???? Why are we talking about space ships?)

Wayne: So you decided to send Tina off with complete strangers? Why not with her grandparents or other relatives that she knew?

Phelps: I didn’t know the Kingbury’s and I didn’t know Tina had grandparents in Texas. I didn’t go looking for their family tree. I trusted Chris to have the capacity to make good decisions. (Phelps’s face is red and he is visibly upset).

Wayne: Who paid for Tina’s plane ticket?

Phelps: Ernie Willis paid for Tina’s plane ticket to Colorado. I called the police and told them.

Wayne asks another question

Phelps: I save every calendar I have ever bought. In 30 years of ministry as pastor, I have NEVER forgotten any case of abuse that was brought to me. I have absolutely been thrown under the bus for this! The news media has attacked me at every point! I got a call 10 hours before this story was released in the local newspaper!

Wayne: Um, do you remember my question, Mr. Phelps?

Phelps: Yes.

Wayne: You never called the police after Tina was sent away? You don’t think the police might want to know that the only witness of a crime is going out of state?

Phelps: Did Tina ever apply to come back to school? Maybe that’s why she never returned to school. There was no need for her to return to school, anyways. I think she had already graduated from school.

(That is not true. Tina was not allowed to go back to school after being pregnant and she still had a year of high school to finish. One of the teachers at Trinity said the student rulebook was changed after Tina left school. The rule book made a rule that no students who became pregnant during the summer or school year would be allowed to return to school and finish their schooling).

Wayne: So why the public confession? Why did you make Tina “confess?”

Phelps: For help. So that the church family would know how to help and assist Tina during this difficult time.

Wayne: What was Tina’s reaction during the confession?

Phelps: well, my wife Linda actually said that Tina was smiling while she was up there reading the letter.

*4pm, Judge says we will stop for today and reconvene on Wednesday.

*May 25, Wednesday, 10:21am

Chuck Phelps walks in and smiles really big at Ernie Willis. Then he takes the stand again, and Wayne Coull resumes questioning him.

Wayne: Tell me about that service where Ernie and Tina were made to “confess.” What did you say specifically to the congregation?

Phelps: It was an unusual time; this happened outside of the church. The people involved were church goers, but this happened aside from TBC. We didn’t want the media to give false information. My notes say, “This is not easy; refer to verses, give public apology, forgiveness, love, prayer. Don’t judge. Forgive. 5-10 minutes long. Silence the accuser, their desire is forgiveness. This is not to shame them. This is restoration. Not judgment.”

Wayne: Did you lead the congregation to believe these were two separate instances?

Phelps: Yes. Well. They were presented separately, because Ernie was seeking forgiveness for breaking marital vows, and Tina was seeking forgiveness for allowing herself to be in a compromising relationship.

Wayne: Read page ? and tell us what Ernie said during that service.

Phelps: “Ernie Willis: I come with shame and sorrow in my heart. Psalms 32:5, “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. I want to confess my sins……….I pray that the testimony of this church, Trinity Baptist Church, will be restored. I am thankful for the love and support Pastor Chuck Phelps has shown me. Psalms 51:2-3, ‘Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions.’ Thank you for your love and concern.

*Judge calls for a recess, it is 10:35am.

(The attorneys approach the bench, and are talking with the Judge. Debating some kind of legal rule. Something about a “mistrial” and wanting to reconvene with no jury).

*Break is over, court is back in session. 524 people are watching the live feed on the blog.

Judge Smukler says that now Chuck Phelps does not have to answer certain things and not have that seen as guilt.

Wayne: Read on page ? of your notes Tina Anderson’s letter that she read.

Phelps: She was not made to read it. I read it to the congregation for her. “Psalms 138:6, ‘Though the Lord be high, yet hath He respect for the lowly.’ With a heavy heart, I seek your forgiveness. I have acted dishonorably towards God. I pray I will have your forgiveness just as God has forgiven me for allowing myself to be put in these compromising situations.”

Wayne: “Situations?”

Phelps: Yes. Plural.

Wayne: Earlier, yesterday in your testimony, you said that Tina stayed with you for a few days, you said, 16 days. You told Detective DeAngelis that Tina was with you a few days. But in your notes you say she was only with you for a day.

Phelps: I forgot how many days it was. My daughter, Sharon, she has a mind like a steel trap! And she told me Tina stayed with us for one night.

Wayne: So you never thought it would be important to go back and correct that with Detective DeAngelis?

Phelps: There is…..

Wayne: Please just answer my question with a “yes” or “no.”

Phelps: Do you want me to read the notes?

Wayne: NO. I just want you to answer my question!

Phelps: My wife was under the impression that Tina stayed with us for some time.

Wayne: Ernie Willis maintained that is was two times of sex.

Phelps: Yes.

Wayne: Tina didn’t understand and know why she had to go before the congregation.

Phelps: Tina knew the purpose of this discipline service. She carefully crafted a letter with help from someone else.

Wayne: Is it true that you read a verse in the Old Testament to Tina, a verse that said she would be stoned for being raped?

Phelps: I read her a verse in Deuteronomy, and this verse can be taken in context or out of context.

Wayne: Read the verse.

Phelps: I don’t have a bible with me.

Wayne: (grabs a bible from his briefcase, and walks towards Phelps). I have a bible. Here. Find the verse and read it to us.

Phelps: (fumbles around to find the verse).

Wayne: I bookmarked the reference so you could find the verse it easier. Just flip open to the purple bookmark.

Phelps: Deuteronomy 22:23-24, “If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.”

Wayne: Did you tell Tina she is lucky that she did not live in those days because she would have been stoned?

Phelps: We are ALL lucky to not live in those days. But I did not tell Tina that. I told her from this verse, it says if the damsel cries out…I told Tina, ‘Tina, we are here to help you…you can scream. We will help you. But she did not call out.

(Hang on-Tina was being raped in an empty parking lot in the back of a car. Who would have heard her? And who could hear her scream when it was only her and Ernie at the house? At this point, Rachel left the courtroom, very upset, and crying. I left shortly afterwards, too. I needed to get some air and clear my head. This made me very, very angry. I cannot fathom that a “Christian pastor” who of all people should be the one a scared girl can expect to get help from, treating Tina this way. Tina and Aunt Laurie are downstairs, as are several other people who did not want to be in the court room. There are a lot of emotions right now).

Phelps: Ernie Willis had more to lose than Tina Anderson. That is why I naturally assumed Tina was lying to me. I did not understand why Tina would go out to eat with Ernie, if he had just raped her. She was being dishonest. When I told her that, Tina turned and looked at me with anything but love on her face. The Bedford Inn is not MacDonalds. They both went to the Bedford Inn for Tina’s birthday. Tina was very angry with me. So it was obvious this was consensual.

Wayne: Did your wife, Linda, ask Tina at one point if she “enjoyed it?”

Phelps: That is a lie! (starts crying). That is so outside the character of my loving wife! It was not a discipline service. I wanted to prepare the church for the news, and I knew the media would get ahold of this story, and I wanted to prepare our church family with how to deal with the false media reports. I wanted Trinity Baptist Church to know so they could embrace Tina and Ernie. If I am not a compassionate person, I am not fit for ministry.

I would never have someone involuntarily come before the church. Tina Anderson’s success as a person, her success in life, success as a mother, wife, teacher and citizen of America is all attributed to the loving church family she had here at Trinity Baptist Church. Some people have the inability to make good choices in life. This time of confession might have been interpreted as “painful” by Tina. The news media definitely made her story look painful. I can’t say this any stronger. I never said “forgive and forget.”

Wayne: Did you make Tina go and apologize to her stepfather while he was in jail? Did you make her ask forgiveness for his molesting her?

Phelps: If the social workers are telling Tina to work with her stepfather, and rebuild their relationship, then she should listen to them.

*Wayne steps down, Ernie’s attorney Donna Brown steps up to question Phelps

Donna Brown: You said Ernie told you force was used?

Phelps: This is illegal, obviously, because he was 39, and she was 15. But I doubt I told the police force was used, because Tina did not say “rape,” so I did not say “rape” either.

Donna Brown: Ernie told you he was the aggressor?

Phelps: Yes, Ernie said he was aggressive and it was consensual.

* Donna Brown steps down, and Wayne gets up for a few more questions

Wayne: You have no degree in counseling, and no training in this area. Yet you kept Tina at your house and questioned her for hours?

Phelps: I am a moral pastor, so I deal with moral issues, not legal issues.

Wayne: You have no legal training, no training in counseling, and you question a victim of crime?

Phelps: I am a minister of the gospel, not a social worker.

Wayne: Do you at least acknowledge that you would never do this again? That you would not have Tina stand before 500 people and “confess?”

Phelps: With great sorrow, I regret this, because the press and the newspapers have called me anything but an honorable man! That is the case here! The case is that they have blamed me. They have spun me as a rapist just because I asked a lying girl some questions! I regret that.

*It is about 12pm now. Chuck Phelps is done being on the stand.

Edited to clarify: Chuck Phelps' attorney is David C. Gibbs III


  1. From the direct words of her pastor I understand now more the reality and horror of the situation Tina was made to endure. How unbelievably sad....the revictimization of the victim. Phelps' own notes confirm Tina's story and her abuse. "Ongoing sexual relationship" and "aggressor" and "twice" do not go together Mr. Phelps. Turn in your robes--you've failed. You sheltered and showed compassion to the criminal child perp and showed disrespect and anger for the victim. Your lack of repentance DOES disqualify you from the ministry. I'm so sorry for everyone who was so adversely affected by this proud, arrogant, and ignorant "pastor." Thank you for the truth. We weren't getting it from this corrupt pastor.
    --not the teacher's pet

  2. Ugh. Still calling her a liar. On his website he says he would do things differently, but it appears that it has nothing to do with how he would view the victim.

    And this: "Phelps: We are ALL lucky to not live in those days. But I did not tell Tina that. I told her from this verse, it says if the damsel cries out…I told Tina, ‘Tina, we are here to help you…you can scream. We will help you. But she did not call out." It appears, just from what is written here, that he is misapplying the verse in the courtroom. The verse is speaking of screaming out during the crime, yet he seems to say here that Tina needed to 'cry out' after the crime - to those who supposedly would help her. Yet isn't that exactly what she did - cry out, as any victim would, and she received NO help. :(

    I will continue to pray for Tina and her precious family. What a whirlwind of events that have surrounded her recently. I continue to be impressed by the testimony she and her husband have in the midst of this. They are great examples.

    - Michele Massie

  3. "We are not equipped to deal with pregnant teens at our Christian school." So, I wonder what special equipment the school would need to "deal with pregnant teens." At my children's high school the pregnant girls seem to be getting along just fine with the status quo. They did have a daycare for the students' children, but that is after delivery, obviously. What is he actually saying here?

    And then the very next statement. "And Tina never used the word 'rape.'" Besides the fact that it is entirely likely she didn't even know that word, what would have been different if she had used that word.

    So, this guys own notes establish the fact that aggression was used on her but because she never SAID the word "rape" she was not ever treated as a victim of a violent crime?? She needed competent, caring help which she obviously never got in this strange religious system. Sick, sick stuff.

    Is there a trial in the future for this pastor guy? Seems like he needs a few moments in solitary thinking about his sins and his stupidity.

    Concerned Mom and Grandma

  4. What about Matt Olson? He went along with Chuck Phelps and took Tina Anderson into his church. His actions resulted in a rapist being allowed to remain in Phelp's church in good standing.

    Matt Olson refuses to apologize or admit that he did anything wrong. You know he stayed in contact with Chuck Phelps. You know that he knew that the rapist wasn't arrested. Yet Matt Olson did nothing.

    Matt, it is time to apologize. And if you won't, the board of Northland International University should ask you to resign. It is also time for NIU to separate from Chuck Phelps and the institutions he represents - FBFI and BJU.

    Matt Olson and Chuck Phelps did not protect a victim of rape when she cried out for help.

  5. Wow, Phelps is a 'real piece of work'! How in the world The Wilds can have a fellow like this lead a Couple's Conference this Summer really bothers me...greatly.
    Laurie, is there an official court transcript available for this?...not being critical but this account is a distillation of proceedings and not comprehensive.
    Oh, and the FBFI and BJU, they couldn't give a rip about Tina or anyone's all about their images, ministries, and income. If the FBFI can coronate a preacher like John Steven as Board member emeritus, then anything goes!
    Fundamentalism has become a haven for fellows who covet money, sex, prestige, and power. We are seeing the demise of fundamentalism and its institutions. The Tina Anderson story - and fundamentalism's sick response to her story and cronyism and support for Phelps - constitute one of a string of events that is being played out over and over within the cult. The blind are following the blind....How sad. Flee these people.
    Thanks for publishing this account of the trial, Laurie.

  6. Let God arise and this man be crushed. Amen.