Both sides label man a sinner, but defense denies he’s a criminal
FORT WORTH – The defense and the prosecution in the trial of Terry Hornbuckle agreed that the Arlington minister was a sinner.
A jury now must decide whether his sin was adultery or rape. In their closing statements Tuesday, the defense told the jury that Mr. Hornbuckle only violated God’s law, while the prosecution argued that it was man’s law that the minister broke.
Deliberations will continue this morning on the three charges of sexual assault against Mr. Hornbuckle. The defense has argued that any sex was consensual.
“He is a predator, plain and simple,” prosecutor Sean Colston said during his closing argument Tuesday.
He told the jury that Mr. Hornbuckle used his position as a respected and successful preacher to prey on women’s weaknesses. In two cases, Mr. Hornbuckle has been accused of drugging women before he raped them; the third woman said she was drugged but there was no rape at that time.
Defense attorney Leon Haley said his client was caught up in the “raptures of sin.” But he added that the alleged victims were either willing participants or only looking to profit from a successful minister with a weakness for women and drugs.
The jury deliberated for 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon before stopping for the day.
Mr. Hornbuckle is facing two to 20 years in prison if convicted, but he could also be eligible for probation. State district Judge Scott Wisch rejected a request by the defense to allow jurors to consider charges of indecent exposure as an alternative for two of the sexual assault cases.
The prosecution spent six days building a case against Mr. Hornbuckle, founder of Agape Christian Fellowship church. The defense rested Tuesday morning without calling a witness.
Mr. Haley said there was no need to call witnesses to testify on behalf of Mr. Hornbuckle. The attorney said the vigorous cross-examination of the alleged victims made his point that the sex was consensual in some cases and didn’t happen in others.
“We feel very comfortable that we can argue to the jury that Terry sinned but hasn’t violated the law,” Mr. Haley said.
Prosecutor Betty Arvin said she wasn’t surprised that the defense rested so quickly, although she said she had hoped to have a chance to cross-examine Mr. Hornbuckle.
“It would have been interesting to hear his version this time,” she said.
In their closing statements, the prosecution and defense reiterated the same themes that have played out during the past two weeks.
Ms. Arvin pointed out the similarities among the cases against the man she described as “Bishop Casanova.”
All three women said they believed they were drugged, and one of them tested positive for a class of drug that can cause drowsiness and amnesia. Two said they awoke to find themselves naked with Mr. Hornbuckle either in bed with them or nearby.
“That’s not consent. That’s rape,” Ms. Arvin said.
The women also testified that Mr. Hornbuckle gave them money and gifts, and in some cases, intimidated them into not telling anyone.
Mr. Haley said his client was guilty of being a bad minister, husband and father. But, he said, that’s not the purview of the courts.
“The state wants to bring God into the courthouse,” he said.
Mr. Haley asserted that the women wanted to date Mr. Hornbuckle and are now using the legal actions to cover up their own sin. One of them has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Hornbuckle and the church he founded.
With a preacher’s cadence, a booming voice and a peppering of street slang, Mr. Haley aggressively questioned the women’s credibility during the closing argument.
Mr. Haley said one alleged victim was “on the hustle with her stripper girlfriend,” looking to separate men from their money. He also noted that the woman was a lesbian, an alternative lifestyle that “God does not accept.”
Mr. Haley called one of the women – who said she was coerced into several sexual encounters – “Ms. Five Times.”
He referred to another as a “meth whore.”
“Don’t be mad at me,” Mr. Haley said, referring to his harsh language. “That’s real.”
Afterward, Mr. Colston declined to comment about Mr. Haley’s attacks except to say that, “Leon is Leon.”
Ms. Arvin said that such harsh treatment discourages some women from testifying in rape trials. In each case, she warns them about what can happen on the witness stand.
“You can expect very vigorous questions and very vigorous cross-examination,” she said. “The victims have to be prepared.”
Defense attorney Mike Heiskell said that’s what prosecutors always say. He said that he and Mr. Haley tried to be respectful but that he couldn’t ignore the women’s behavior.
“This is all smoke and mirrors,” he said.