They were the consummate Pentecostal power couple who preached about the sanctity of marriage, held hands in public, even proclaimed their love in a book. Behind closed doors, their relationship was no fairy tale.
On Tuesday, Bishop Thomas W. Weeks III is scheduled to face criminal charges at Fulton County Superior Court for allegedly choking, beating and kicking his estranged wife, nationally known evangelist Juanita Bynum, after they argued in the Renaissance Concourse Hotel parking lot on Aug. 21.
Weeks claims he did not abuse Bynum. He maintains he has been a victim of domestic violence in their stormy five-year marriage.
It will be up to a jury to decide which minister’s message is more moving.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said the facts will speak for themselves: Bynum suffered bruises in the attack. A bellman pulled Weeks off Bynum to stop the beating. The bellman heard Weeks threaten to kill Bynum.
“We plan to present evidence of what happened by way of eyewitnesses,” Howard said.
Weeks was charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats and simple battery in connection with the incident.
The prosecution will try to argue that Weeks has a history of lashing out violently when he loses his temper, including attacking members of his staff at Global Destiny Church in Duluth over workplace issues, according to court and police records.
Ed Garland, Weeks’ defense attorney, said the effort to portray Weeks as an abuser at work or home will fall flat because, “it is not true.” A judge could decide against allowing prosecutors to tell a jury about prior accusations of violence.
“That is part of their effort to create a case where there is not a case,” Garland said. “The truth is that he did not assault his wife, that she was totally emotionally and physically out of control and assaulted him first. His only actions were in self- defense. He is absolutely innocent.”
Neither Bynum nor Weeks would comment directly on the case last week.
Weeks has said he believes the parking lot incident was an over-the-top attempt by Bynum to advance her career. Bynum did not go to the hospital immediately after the alleged attack. Photos of her bruises were posted on a gossip Web site before police completed their investigation. Bynum, who named herself “the new face of domestic violence” shortly after the attack, has a ministry that encourages women to leave dead-end relationships.
Former members of Global Destiny said they were not surprised by the couple’s split over allegations of domestic violence. In a sermon for the couple’s “Teach Me How To Love You,” series, Bynum joked about having threatened her husband with a brick.
Robert Graves, who worked as an organist at Global Destiny and travels with Bynum, said he heard more of the couple’s disagreements than he wanted because his office was next to Bynum’s. “You heard a lot of profanity and screaming,” Graves said. “There were a few times when we saw the effects of what we heard.”
Bynum cried. Weeks seemed “intense,” Graves said. “We always knew when he was upset, because we would feel it at the next staff meeting.”
In December 2006, Weeks was accused of workplace violence. He allegedly grabbed a female employee by the neck and threw her to the floor because he was angry about how she handled church affairs. Bynum and others persuaded the employee not to report the incident, court records show.
Graves said he, too, had a run-in with Weeks. When word of Weeks and Bynum’s break-up spread to the church, Graves said, Weeks blamed him. “He said I was the one spreading rumors,” Graves said. “We had a meeting. He was sitting at his desk, and he reached across his desk and grabbed me.”
Other employees say Weeks has never shown them that he has a hot temper. “That has not been my experience,” said Pastor Joyce Gilmer. “That is why I want the truth to be revealed.”
Weeks’ spokesperson, Nakia Hicks of Double XX Posure Media Relations, also defended him: “In the 10 years of Bishop Weeks’ pastoring, he has never physically laid hands on any member or staff as a means to hurt them or cause bodily harm.”
In the months leading up to the Aug. 21 incident, Graves said Weeks got upset because he wanted his wife to come to services more often. Bynum’s ministry was at a high point. Because of her demanding schedule of TV appearances and speaking engagements, Bynum was being pulled away from Global Destiny. Collections were down, Graves said.
“The church was pretty much built around her popularity. When she left, that kind of hurt the ministry.”
Bynum left the church in June when the couple separated. She had a lawyer fax Weeks a letter demanding he stop using her photos or voice recordings at Global Destiny.
Bynum told police she and Weeks spent more than a month apart. Weeks, however, said the couple had talked and rekindled their flame. On Aug. 21, Bynum met Weeks at a Renaissance Concourse Hotel restaurant. The couple began to argue. Weeks got up to leave and Bynum followed her into the parking lot, where he grabbed her by the neck, choked her and threw her to the ground, she told police in a report.
John Omodibo, a hotel bellman, heard Bynum screaming at 10:15 p.m. when he went outside. “I saw a black male with a three-piece suit on kicking the lady all over her body. The lady said, ‘You are killing me,’ ” Omodibo said in a police statement. “The guy said, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ ”
Omodibo grabbed Weeks and told him he was “going to jail.” Bynum begged the bellman not to hurt her husband. Weeks then jumped into a Range Rover and sped away, police records show.
Hotel security director Luis Villamizar found Bynum in tears: “She kept repeating that her friends were coming to pick her up and she did not need police or an ambulance.”
Records show Bynum went to Piedmont Hospital at 3:03 a.m. on Aug. 22, complaining of neck and back pain. Bynum talked to police at Piedmont. Bynum’s sister, Tina Culpepper, told police she had taken pictures of Bynum’s injuries and could e-mail them to authorities. Police met with Bynum again on Aug. 23 to get their own photos. Weeks was arrested a day later.
Bynum continues to work as a traveling evangelist and platinum-selling gospel singer. Weeks still preaches from his pulpit at Global Destiny with charismatic charm that brings women to their feet to praise God. If convicted, he could be away from his congregation for as long as 27 years.
Original title: Bishop Weeks to face abuse charges in court