Judge won’t ease bail restrictions

FORT WORTH – A senior state district judge refused to ease bail restrictions Monday on an Arlington pastor who is accused of sexually assaulting three female congregants

Visiting Judge C.C. “Kit” Cooke rejected requests by Bishop Terry Lee Hornbuckle to reduce his $405,000 bail and remove conditions such as electronic monitoring and periodic drug and alcohol testing.

Last month, a Tarrant County grand jury indicted Hornbuckle on four charges of sexual assault — second-degree felony charges. Prosecutors also filed a felony drug charge against Hornbuckle after investigators said they found a small amount of methamphetamine in his Cadillac Escalade after his arrest.

Hornbuckle, 43, of Grapevine, pleaded not guilty Monday to the charges. Hornbuckle has an electronic ankle-monitor that tracks his whereabouts and tests his blood-alcohol level. He is also tested for drugs once a day.

Hornbuckle’s attorney, Mike Heiskell, called the bail conditions “oppressive” and “punitive.” Bail for second-degree sexual assault is typically set at $10,000. However, court officials called to testify Monday said that each case is unique.

Hornbuckle’s mother, sister and wife testified that Hornbuckle is not a flight risk. His wife, Renee Hornbuckle, assumed leadership of Agape Christian Fellowship after church officials placed her husband on administrative leave.

Judge Everett Young, who presides over the 297th District Court and set Hornbuckle’s bail, testified that prosecutors told him that Hornbuckle was planning a trip to Jamaica.

“The context was that he would be a flight risk,” Young said. “And because there were multiple counts alleged, it is not unusual [for a higher bail].”

Prosecutor Sean Colston said he requested a higher bail amount and tight restrictions on Hornbuckle because in two of the sexual assault cases it was alleged that drugs were used to overcome the victims. He also cited Hornbuckle’s ties to ministries around the world and his travel history outside the country as a possibility of flight risk.

“We also had information that Mr. Hornbuckle was in possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia,” he testified.

Hornbuckle is being sued in civil court by the alleged sexual assault victims. Agape church and eight church elders were also named in the lawsuits. The women claim that Hornbuckle used his position in the church to gain their trust before sexually assaulting them, according to the court documents.

Much of Monday’s hearing in 371st District Court focused on the couple’s finances.

Renee Hornbuckle said any investments they had and their savings were depleted to pay for bail and lawyers. She said the church loaned them money for Terry Hornbuckle’s defense, but she didn’t specify the amount.

The church pays each an annual salary of about $50,000 and they get an $80,000 a year housing stipend.

The couple owns property in Grapevine, Colleyville and Lancaster valued at about $1.4 million, according to Tarrant and Dallas counties’ taxing authorities. The Hornbuckles own three vehicles: a pickup, a Cadillac Escalade and a Mercedes sedan.

Hornbuckle bought a Cadillac sedan and a house in Lancaster for his parents, his mother testified. Renee Hornbuckle testified that the house and 11 acres are used for church events and retreats.

Renee Hornbuckle owns a Wings To Go restaurant in Euless, but she said the business has always lost money and will close.

Terry Hornbuckle started the Agape church in Irving in the mid-1980s with about a dozen members meeting at an abandoned Dairy Queen. Now, the congregation exceeds 2,500, and the members meet in a 42,000-square-foot facility on nearly 30 acres in southeast Arlington. Tax records show that the property is valued at more than $4 million.

The Hornbuckles have denied the allegations in the criminal and civil cases. They said the women attempted to extort millions of dollars before going to authorities and filing the civil lawsuits.

Colston called Monday’s hearing “moot” because Hornbuckle posted bond and met all the conditions of his release.

“The defense did not bring any documentation that they are losing all this money,” he said.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Star-Telegram, USA
Apr. 12, 2005
Anthony Spangler

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday April 12, 2005.
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