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Posted on Sat, May. 25, 2002 story:PUB_DESC
Pastor's case in hands of jury
Deliberations in molestation trial to resume Tuesday

Staff Writer

After four days of testimony and lawyers' arguments, the child molestation case against the Rev. Wilmer D. Williams will remain without a verdict through the Memorial Day weekend, Muscogee Superior Court Judge Robert Johnston decided Friday.

The jury of 10 men and two women deliberated two hours before Johnston sent them home shortly after 6 p.m., ordering them to resume their decision-making process at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

For almost three hours Friday morning, the jury listened to at times fiery arguments from the prosecution and defense attorneys.

Assistant District Attorney Stacey Jackson urged a verdict convicting the Tabernacle of Praise AOH Church bishop-elect of aggravated child molestation, sexual battery and two counts of child molestation involving teen-age boys who were members of Williams' congregation.

Defense attorney Michael Garner was just as insistent that Williams should be acquitted of all charges, arguing that the state's case had brought "a wonderful man and his family to the brink of destruction."

"He didn't do this, but they're going to destroy him and his wife just to win a case," Garner told the jury, pointing to the table where Jackson and Assistant District Attorney Maggie Bagley awaited their opportunity to argue their points. "I'm amazed that they have brought this trash up here."

Garner said Williams' witnesses had not only presented reasonable doubt about the state's case, they had exonerated the 64-year-old father of five girls and a boy.

"The evidence says the man is innocent," he said.

Jackson said the state's witnesses proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the minister had molested one teen-ager from age 15 until he finally told his parents at age 17, including touching the teen's genitalia and having the boy commit oral sodomy. The incidents happened in the minister's homes and in motels during out-of-state trips in which Williams and the youth shared a motel room, he said.

The teen-ager's 16-year-old brother also was groped on the buttocks by the minister in the pastor's office moments before a church service began April 24, 2001, the prosecutor said.

"They're not making it up because it happened," Jackson argued, adding that to believe the defense, jurors would have to believe the teen-agers' parents convinced their sons to lie about sexual activities that subject them to ridicule and shame. "What parent would put their children through something like this?"

"They're circling the wagons," Jackson said of the parishioners who testified for the defense, including those who said no groping occurred during the embrace they witnessed between the younger teen and Williams in the pastor's office.

Jackson said those witnesses had every opportunity to come forward during the year since Williams was arrested, but their stories were heard only when the defense began presenting its case this week.

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