A Toronto pastor who had sex with two women he was claiming to rid of evil spirits abused his position of trust and is guilty of sexual assault, a prosecutor says.
Both women insist that he forced his attentions on them, but even if they had consented, under Canadian law that consent would be invalid because he is in a position of trust, power or authority over them, Assistant Crown Attorney Paul Zambonini said in his final arguments.
“These women looked up to him. They trusted him. They believed he was a man of God. He was someone they looked up to and he took advantage of that,” Zambonini said. “He took advantage of their vulnerabilities … and in Canada the law prohibits that.”
The two women, who came to him with physical or emotional problems, testified that he claimed he would rid them of evil spirits with healing baths, which were followed by him rubbing ointment on their naked bodies.
The older woman said he forced her to the floor and raped her after the three baths and once during a graveyard ritual at midnight. She said she kept going back because he threatened her with evil spirits.
The younger woman said he sexually assaulted her after she came to him desperate for a place to live.
Lawrence has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault, four of threatening death and one of assault in incidents alleged to have occurred between 2000 and 2005 when he ran Toronto Mount Zion Revival Church of the Apostles.
Defence lawyer Anthony Robbins urged the jury to acquit his client, arguing that the sex was consensual and that at no time did he use coercion.
He pointed to inconsistencies in the women’s testimony and urged the jury to examine what they said critically.
“There is no corroboration at all,” he said.
The younger woman could not even tell how many times she was forced to have intercourse, Robbins said. She is simply a woman scorned, he said.
Robbins had called several of the minister’s parishioners to testify to his good character. Several have regularly attended his trial to show support.
“My client has no criminal record,” the defence lawyer said. “He has an unblemished character.”
Justice Edward Belobaba started charging the jury yesterday. He is to continue today, after which they would retire to consider their verdict.