A pastor has been convicted of sexually assaulting a parishioner to whom he gave healing baths and naked rubdowns to rid her of evil spirits.
At the same time, a jury of nine men and three women acquitted Rev. Frank Seeko Lawrence of separate counts of assaulting and threatening to kill the woman, now 29, by whom he fathered a child.
They also found him not guilty of sexually assaulting a second woman, now 45, who also had his baby.
It took the jury three days to come to its verdict. At least a dozen of the 59-year-old pastor’s followers and friends waited in the courthouse hallway throughout.
Lawrence admitted in 2005 family court documents to having nine other children, age 8 to 22, by four other mothers, whom he supported on an income of $19,600 a month.
Prosecutor Paul Zambonini, who told the jury that in law there cannot be consensual sex between two people when one is in a position of power, trust, or authority, later praised them for their hard work.
At the time of the sex assault, Lawrence ran his Toronto Mount Zion Revival Church of the Apostles out of the basement of his home.
In dramatic testimony lasting five days, the victim said he gave her black magic baths, for which he charged $150, to rid her of evil spirits, then ordered her to stand up and drip dry while he rubbed her naked body with brown ointment.
Anthony Robbins, Lawrence’s lawyer, said he was disappointed with the jury’s verdict and his client is considering an appeal. He said he disagreed with the Crown’s assertion that sex between the pastor and his parishioner could never be consensual.
“My concern is that the jury found that (the complainant) could not be believed beyond a reasonable doubt in respect of all but one of her allegations,” he said. “It is going to be up to the judge to find which of the numerous (alleged) sexual assaults the jury convicted her on. She claimed constant sexual abuse over a nine-month period.”
The victim testified her mother first brought her to the pastor when she was 17, because she had constant vomiting and splitting headaches. She said that in 2003, when she was in her mid-20s, he allowed her to stay at his home because she was desperate for a place to live. Shortly after, he forced his attentions on her, she testified.
Lawrence returns for a sentencing hearing on Feb. 28.