RUTHERFORDTON — After waiting through the majority of the Rutherford County District Court docket, Jane Whaley’s day in court on a misdemeanor criminal assault charge was postponed to Dec. 19.
Whaley, the co-founder and lead minister of the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, was charged by former church member Lacy Wien with assaulting her after Wien threatened to leave the church in February 2002.
Wien said Whaley was upset about Wien’s desire to leave the church as well as her wish to pursue a relationship with her now husband, Ruben Wien.
“She (Whaley) put her hands around my neck and pulled me up out of my chair,” Wien testified in September during a DSS trial in former member Shana Muse’s child custody case. “She was beating my head against a wall and yelling derogatory comments (like, ‘You’re a fornicator’). She laid me down on the table and held me there for the rest of the meeting.”
Wien filed the criminal complaint shortly after the October ruling in the Muse case.
On Friday, both the district attorney and Whaley appeared ready to go forward, but a full docket pushed the potential start of the case into mid-afternoon.
Judge Dawn Skerrett of Hendersonville waded through a variety of district court cases with the Whaley case intentionally left for the end of the day.
After the lunch recess, Judge Skerrett called a conference of Whaley’s lawyers and Assistant District Attorney Ken Suave.
It was agreed that there was not enough time Friday afternoon to fully hear the case and it was continued until Friday, Dec. 19 where the afternoon was blocked off before Judge Robert Cilley.
At least 14 people were in attendance either prepared to testify for or in support of Whaley including her husband, Sam, and Kent and Brooke Covington.
Wien, who stayed out of the courtroom, had her own support crew in attendance including Muse, also a former WOFF member.
The Covingtons and Muse are in an ongoing legal battle over Muse’s four children who lived with the Covingtons for just over a year after Muse left the church.
A custody battle ensued with the Rutherford County Department of Social Services getting involved. DSS won a court ruling last month that removed Muse’s children from the Covington’s and placed them in DSS care.
Judge Randy Pool ruled the WOFF environment was abusive to children.
The Covingtons have appealed the ruling including requesting Pool’s order be stayed pending appeal which would allow the children to stay with the Covingtons.
Both Judge Pool and the North Carolina Court of Appeals have denied a stay. The Covingtons have appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court for a stay.
Lacy Wien’s testimony in the Muse case was one of the items Pool cited in making his ruling.
Wien spent most of her childhood in the church before leaving in 2002.
Her future husband, Ruben, helped Lacy get out of the church and the two married in August of 2002.
Lacy Wien also has a civil suit pending against Whaley and other church members. The suit alleges years of mental and physical abuse and is likely to come to trial in June 2004.