Friday, September 30, 2016

Polygamous leader of Canadian "church" is sentenced to 18 months in prison for assaults on members

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Matthew 7:21-23

Anyone familiar with abusive churches and cults will find the characteristics of the leader of this Ontario "church" and his behaviour to be all too familiar. As reported by Scott Dunn of the Owen Sound Sun Times, September 14, 2016:

OWEN SOUND -

Disgraced Chatsworth church leader Fred King, known to his parishioners simply as “The Prophet,” was sentenced today to 18 months jail followed by two years probation.

His church, which came to public attention first through a W5 television expose, has disbanded, according to defence lawyer Paul Mergler.

King, 57, pleaded guilty in May to nine assaults which took place between Dec. 12, 1988 and Aug. 10, 2008, mostly in Chatsworth Township or elsewhere in Grey County, and in one case in Peel Region, involving four church members.

The abuse included squeezing a child's hand with crushing force for fighting with a sister, and beating a teen in church in front of its members after she'd tried to run away. King also beat a young man stripped of clothes in front of his mother, leaving him standing outside for hours at night as mosquitoes bit him.

Grey County Crown attorney Michael Martin said King, who led the church since 1986, was “all powerful within that religious denomination” and often preached for hours on end. He alone decided when behaviour needed “correction” and what form it took.

King, a tall, heavyset man, would “sadistically humiliate and repeatedly assault women . . . and children with complete impunity,” Martin said.

This breach of trust was often carried out in front of the congregation, Martin noted. Victims worked in “church-controlled jobs, either as farm labour or within the printing business.”

King had nothing to say when given the opportunity to speak in court Wednesday.

King admitted in the Superior Court of Justice in May to a litany of physical abuse, often designed to humiliate, something Justice Clayton Conlan said he found particularly disturbing as he accepted the sentence recommended by Crown and defence.

He called King's abuse of his church members a “gross violation” of King's position of trust. Emotional scars left, he suspects, will never heal. The “sordid” facts were the primary aggravating factor in deciding the sentence.

But to his credit, King pleaded guilty, saving the justice system time and avoiding aggravation the victims would have had to endure at trial. He's a first offender, Conlan said.

King's victims in the charges he admitted to include three males between 11 and 19 years of age at the time, and Carol Christie. She and husband John Christie did not attend the sentencing because they attended a funeral instead.

Only Christie, 63, of Owen Sound, may be named under terms of a publication ban, which was lifted on her name with her agreement. The ban was imposed to protect the privacy of the other victims at the Crown's request.

After a particularly severe and humiliating attack in front of parishioners, which was detailed in court, Christie ran from the church in March 2008, never to return. Two of the charges King pleaded to related to assaults on her when she was roughly 35 to 55 years old.

Christie came forward and was featured on a W5 investigative report, and in local media in 2012, which detailed abuse allegations. The television report led the OPP to investigate, Martin said.

Christie and her husband wrote a book about her experiences in the church.

A former church member has alleged that Fred King had many wives at once who were handed down from his father, Stan King. But no polygamy charges ever resulted from the 16-month police investigation.

Among charges that were withdrawn Wednesday were six allegations of sexual misconduct including on a young girl and a woman. In two cases the charges alleged repeated sexual assaults. The Crown said he stands behind the credibility of Christie, one of those complaints.

Defence lawyer Mergler said late disclosure of information led to the plea arrangement and withdrawal of the sex related charges.

Mergler, said its been tough on his client while facing these charges and before, when a civil suit was settled with a number of complainants who all received “very significant” damage awards.

So it could be argued, he said, financial “restitution” has already been made to the extent possible. He also said there were “numerous and huge triable issues” in this case which had been set for three weeks of trial before a judge alone.

“There have been death threats,” against King, at least one of which police were told about and which led to imposition of a peace bond, Mergler said. “There was vandalism, including people urinating on the gates to the property. There has been some effective banishment and public vilification, one could say.”

King's “health has suffered” from stress-related issues which arose with this court matter.

A term of bail required him not to live at home in Chatsworth, but instead in Oakville with his wife and brother Joe, one of his bail guarantors, who died this summer. That required Fred to take on many more duties in the family printing plant, which will miss him while he's in jail, Mergler said.

Letters from three of King's children, all adults now, and from his wife, who attended court Wednesday, were submitted for the judge to consider. They work for the family printing business too. “The church has been disbanded. So so all of those people are there because they want to be,” Mergler said.

King always “adamantly denied” any of the sexual charges, he noted. But his crimes, court case precedents and terms of the Criminal Code all “cry out for a jail term” in this case, he said.

“Clearly the time for impunity has past.”

Fred King's brother, Judson King, is charged with assault with a weapon, sexual assault and three counts of assault between 1981 and 2007. He is to appear in assignment court in the Superior Court of Justice Nov. 7.
See also Mr. Dunn's article Church leader guilty of nine assaults (May 10, 2016).

As reported by Jonathan Sher of the London Free Press, September 23, 2016 (bold in original):

In the end, the decision whether to accept a plea bargain for the abusive leader of a Southwestern Ontario church was put in the hands of the woman who suffered some of his cruellest blows.

Carol Christie contends she was forced into the Church of Jesus Christ Restored as a teenager by her mother, forced to be intimate as a minor with church founder Stan King, and later, his son Fred king and forced to endure beatings that ripped the fabric from her body and the spirit from her soul — claims that King denied in defending the lawsuit before settling out of court.

So when Grey County Crown attorney Michael Martin said just four days before the trial was to start in May that King was willing to plead guilty to assault charges if sex-related allegations were dropped, Martin recommended the deal, but said he’d go through with a trial if that’s what Christie wanted.

“He was prepared to continue (with a trial) but recommended that we not,” Christie’s husband John Christie told The Free Press. Martin declined to be interviewed by The Free Press.

King admitted he squeezed a child’s hand with crushing force, beat in front of parishioners a teen after she’d tried to run away and stripped a young man in front of his mother, then left him standing outside for hours at night as mosquitoes bit him.

Fred King’s willingness to plead guilty to some charges stunned his victims, who as members of his church outside Chatsworth, near Owen Sound, were taught to call him “prophet” and to believe what he said was the word of God.

“We never thought we’d get a confession from him. We were taken back,” John Christie said.

It was Carol Christie who blew the whistle on King, fleeing his grip in 2008, marrying John a year later, writing a book that alleged she was one of King’s seven wives, appearing on CTV’s W5 in 2012 and filing a lawsuit that was settled out of court with a payment.

That King was only sentenced last week to 18 months in jail and two years of probation disappointed the lawyer who represented Christie and other victims in civil cases.

John Tamming doesn’t blame the judge or Martin but does take aim at a higher authority. “The (judge) is constrained in such cases by what our Court of Appeal has approved as an appropriate bandwidth for such sentences. Clearly, I am disappointed that such pattern of abuse can result in such a relatively minor penalty (and Mr. King will doubtless serve only a part of this sentence),” Tamming wrote in response to questions from The Free Press.

“Fred King was a vicious tyrant. He used his cult to bend vulnerable people to do whatever suited his will. The public beatings and humiliations that took place in the Chatsworth meeting house in particular ensured him a compliant congregation. His mad and violent outbursts also maintained a cowed group of employees who were fully prepared to work for years at slave wages in his printing plant. I would have hoped that placed in that context, the assaults to which he pleaded guilty would have attracted a much longer prison term.”

There was a time, not so long ago, that Carol and John Christie thought a trial might be best, not only because it would expose King’s atrocities but also the great extent to which his followers were brainwashed.

“We were, in one way, looking forward to the trial,” John Christie said. “(Church members defending King would) all be sticking to the same script with very little variation from what they were told to say.”

But they also believed that King’s lawyer would attack the mental stability of Carol Christie. They knew it would be difficult to prove allegations of sexual assaults and crimes without third-party witnesses. And they were convinced church members would testify to whatever King commanded.

“The prophet is all-powerful in this. He’s supposed to be their direct link to God and they do not question that,” John Christie said.

Four days before the scheduled trial in May, Christie agreed to the plea bargain.

There’s no dispute 18 months in jail pales compared to longer sentences given for crimes of lesser significance, John Christie said. They’re disappointed, too, that King wasn’t charged with polygamy but understand that such a charge might not stick because King consummated all marriages but one in bed — only one wife had a marriage licence, Christie said.

But John Christie and his wife focus on what they did accomplish. “There’s the satisfaction of knowing we did our best. The church is disbanded. The printing company that financially supported it is on shaky ground. There are few more escapees. Fred is serving a sentence we’ve been able to get information to the public that this sort of thing can happen in your own backyard.”

Carol Christie chose not to attend the sentencing last Wednesday, her emotional energy spent from an eight-year battle to expose the church and its practices, her husband explained. For the same reason she asked her husband to respond to questions about the sentencing and the church.

After the sentencing, she cried tears of relief, her husband said. “It’s over,” she said. “It’s really over.”

--- --- ---

ESCAPEES’ STRUGGLES

The out-of court settlement agreed to by Carol Christie forbids her from disclosing how much she was paid after she sued Fred King, his church, his brother Joseph King and the corporation the brothers control for $14.5 million for damage they allegedly inflicted on her and the wealth they generated forcing her to work for nearly nothing for their company.

But her husband John Christie says she already has spent between a third and a half of the payout helping others who escaped the church — a number that’s grown with King’s conviction and the church’s supposed demise.

Escapees need help, he said. Their development was stunted in a cult where all major life decisions were made by King. Everything they earned went to support King, his only legal wife and their children, whom followers called the royal family, and all they received back were $10 and $20 a week allowances, Christie said.

There are mid-age people from the church with less life skills than teenagers, he said. “They don’t know anything else. How are they going to function?”

--- --- ---

RULING WITH AN IRON FIST

Other assaults to which Fred King pleaded guilty:
Threw from a chair into a prayer circle of women a boy who was 11 or 12 at the time, then kicked, punched and slapped him, then also slapped his six-year-old brother in the face.
Punched, slapped and spit on a boy who was 14 or 15, then ordered him to strip naked with his pants around his ankles in front of the boy’s mother and brother and preached to them for hours. Another time he punched the boy and gave him a black eye, threw him to the ground and stomped on his chest because King was unhappy with the way he was building a fence for the church.
After another boy of 15 or 16 tried to run away, King punched and kicked him, sometimes in the back of the head, in front of the congregation. Years later, when the boy was 19, King threw him from the back of a pickup truck after taunting him by repeatedly telling the boy to get in the truck, each time driving away.

--- --- ---

CHRONOLOGY

-1960s: Stan King preaches in Owen Sound at the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which follows the Book of Mormon but is a smaller denomination than the mainstream Mormon church based in Utah. 15-year-old Carol Christie attends the church.

- 1972: King officially breaks away from the Mormon church to start the Church of Jesus Christ Restored, first preaching in homes and later at a farmhouse near Sauble Beach. Christie alleges she became one of Stan King’s wives after she was beaten by a church member for rejecting his advances. That allegation has not been tested in court.

- 1982: King moves the church to a bankrupt ski resort he purchased in 1982 of the village of Chatsworth southeast of Owen Sound.

- 1986: Stan King dies and his son Fred King takes over; Christie alleges the father’s wives, then numbering six, were passed on to the son. Police later investigate claims of polygamy but lay no charges.

- 1998-2008: King repeatedly slaps, spits on and pulls the hair of Christie before the congregation, he later admits in criminal court.

- March 23, 2008: On Easter Sunday in front of the congregation, Fred King calls Carol Christie an “Indian bitch,” pulls her hair, spits in her face and repeatedly slaps her on the head, according to an agreed statement of facts later submitted in court. Christie flees the church two days later.

2010 – Christie files a lawsuit that soon settles out of court with a payment she can’t disclose because of a confidentiality clause in the deal. A lawsuit is later filed and settled with five other who fled the church.

- Nov. 17, 2012: W5 televises Christie story.

- Nov. 20, 2012: OPP launch investigation

- 2013: Carol and John Christie publish a book, Property. The True Story of a Polygamous Church Wife, that alleged Stan King had six wives, one whom he married at age 10.

- April 2014: OPP charge Fred King with sexual exploitation, sexual interference, three counts of sexual assault, three counts of assault causing bodily harm, five counts of uttering death threats, two counts of assault with a weapon and 10 counts of assault. They also charge his brother Judson with assault with a weapon, uttering death threats and four counts of assault. The alleged offences occurred from 1978 to 2008. Police arrest Fred King April 11 at a Hamilton hotel.

May 2016: King pleads guilty to nine assault charges after the Crown drops the remaining charges.

Sept. 14 2016: King is sentenced to 18 months in jail plus two years of probation. His brother Judson is next scheduled to appear in court in November.

--- --- ---

‘She had no idea who we were’

It’s been 30 years since Karen Siegrist was allowed to see her daughter and grandkids without being under the eye of the leader of a cult-line church, Fred King, and 13 years since she last heard her voice.

So while the Crown attorney and the defence lawyer for King jointly recommended an 18-month sentence for King on nine assault charges, a man whom followers called “prophet”, his time in jail pales compared to the time the 77-year-old Siegrist has been kept away from her eldest child.

“I thought it was a joke,” Siegrist said of the criminal proceedings and sentencing last week of King.

Her daughter Dawn Knisley was just 17 in 1973 when she disappeared from nursing school in Barrie, her family hiring a private investigator to try to find her, Knisley’s sister Risa Walker recalled. A year later, she surfaced in Owen Sound, working as a cashier, so Walker, then 14, and her mother Siegrist went to see her.

“I walked up to her and said hi. She looked at me like she had no idea who we were. She didn’t know us from Adam,” Walker told The Free Press.

A year away from family had changed her forever, Siegrist said. “When she came back, she was not my daughter,” she said.

Dawn Knisley had forged a relationship with a young man whose mother was an ardent member of the Church of Jesus Christ Restored, whose founder Stan King, the father of Fred King, had broken off from a Mormon church in Owen Sound to create his own following, initially at a compound in Sauble Beach.

After Knisley married the man two days after her 18th birthday, Stan King allowed Siegrist access to her daughter, so Siegrist came often to their home, bringing food, toys and whatever her daughter might need for a rapidly growing family — she would have five kids.

Later, when Siegrist drove to her daughter’s small farm home near the church compound, a former ski resort outside Chatsworth, church members drove up within minutes, not saying a word to Siegrist and her husband, only watching.

The next time Siegrist visited her daughter, the church members were there again within minutes — even though the home wasn’t visible from the highway. Siegrist wondered how the church always knew when she came, then had a chilling suspicion: Her grandkids has been told to phone church authorities whenever Grandma showed.

“The grandchildren were programmed,” Siegrist said.

The transition from the elder King to his son was stark, said John Christie, who married Carol Christie after she fled the church. Stan King wanted to expand his church, sponsored a church in India and welcomed outsiders to attend services or fish on church property. But after Stan King died, support for the church in India was pulled, attendance at services was restricted to members and outsiders kept at a distance, even when one of Siegrist’s granddaughters, just four-years-old at the time, was seriously injured in an accident at the Knisley farm that shattered her pelvis, Knisley’s sister Risa Walker said.

Siegrist phoned to find out what had happened — news had spread an air ambulance had flown a child to Toronto — but was hung up on by a church member.

“She told my mother she couldn’t share that information,” Walker said.

Walker drove to Sick Kids in Toronto to see her niece, the last time she saw her or Knisley — it was about 1991.

Siegrist last heard from Knisley in December of 2003, the year Siegrist’s own mother passed away after telling the family not to tell Knisley about her illness, Walker said. So when Siegrist mailed Christmas gifts to Knisley and the grandchildren, she included a copy of the death notice. Throughout decades of strife, the hardest part for Walker was watching her mother endure her grief even as she raised her kids as a single parent and worked three jobs to make ends meet. The separation from her sister ripped Walker apart until 20 years ago, when she decided she needed to focus on her own family and find a way to let her older sister go.

“It was almost like going into grieving. It was the only way I could get through the sadness,” Walker said.

Fred King’s lawyer told the court his church had disbanded. However the thought to Walker that members who made the church their lives will simply walk away is “the biggest bucket of hogwash I’ve ever heard,” she said.

1 comment:

  1. Well, starting with the Mormon background explains the polygamy, and just because he wasn't legally married to more than one (which is why no charges were made on that), it doesn't mean he wasn't "married" to more than one.

    I also firmly believe the rape and sexual abuse charges because that is one of the most common actions of cult leaders.

    What I can't understand is why anyone would remain in a cult which abused the members so horridly.

    ReplyDelete