The trial of two Toledo area pastors charged in a child sex trafficking conspiracy will be held in Toledo, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
Attorneys for Anthony Haynes had asked the court to move his impending trial to Cleveland because of pretrial publicity.
At a hearing scheduled as a “change of plea deadline,” Mr. Haynes as well as co-defendants Cordell Jenkins and Mr. Jenkin’s wife, Laura Lloyd-Jenkins, declined to enter pleas in the case, signaling they intend to go to trial.
Judge Jack Zouhary confirmed the trial for all three for Sept. 5 and said it was not necessary to move it out of town.
“It is my belief that the defendants can obtain a fair trial here,” the judge said, explaining that, while considerable media coverage occurred in the Toledo area, the federal court draws prospective jurors from a 21-county area of northwest Ohio.
He also said the media coverage of the case was “not enough to taint a fair trial” and that the court could determine during the jury selection process whether prospective jurors had been influenced by what they'd read or seen on television.
Mr. Jenkins, 47, who founded and was a pastor at Abundant Life Ministries, and Mr. Haynes, 39, who led the Greater Life Christian Center, each are charged with child sex trafficking, production of child pornography, and other charges.
Ms. Lloyd-Jenkins, 43, the former Lucas County administrator, is charged with obstructing a sex-trafficking investigation and making a false statement to federal investigators.
A third pastor, Kenneth Butler, 38, former pastor of Detroit-based Kingdom Encounter Family Worship Center, pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to sex traffic children, obstruction of a sex-trafficking investigation, and two counts of sex trafficking of children.
Butler, who faces 17½ years in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 12, admitted he had sex with two minor girls, including encounters at Mr. Haynes' church office.
Lorin Zaner, attorney for Mr. Jenkins, said after Thursday's hearing that he believes Butler “is a whole lot more culpable” than his client, but the plea offer made to Mr. Jenkins did not reflect that.
“As far as we were concerned there was no reason not to go to trial,” Mr. Zaner said. “We think each of the charges are defensible.”
Both Mr. Haynes and Mr. Jenkins remain in custody, while Ms. Lloyd-Jenkins, who was fired by county commissioners, is on house arrest.
Mr. Zaner said the judge allowed Mr. Jenkins and Ms. Lloyd-Jenkins to speak with each other in the jury room after the brief hearing.
“The two of them talked and hugged and held hands and talked about what should happen in the case,” he said.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.
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