Money corrupts, former pastor accused of breast-fondling female parishioners says

Lawsuits — not assaults and sex crimes — are at the core of his criminal charges, the former senior pastor of a defunct Baptist church says.

“Many witnesses seemed very interested in lawsuits and money and would be motivated financially to say things that might be less than accurate,” Royden Wood, 57, the controversial ex-pastor of the Ambassador Baptist Church, said during his closing argument in a London court.

Wood, defending himself without a lawyer, made his last pitch to Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton, telling her his accusers’ evidence can’t be trusted.

He has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges — 10 assault-related charges involving three boys who were pupils at the school’s alternative school between 1985 and 1987; and three sex-related charges involving two females and breast-fondling.

Wood and assistant Crown attorney Peter Kierluk made final arguments earlier than expected yesterday after Wood indicated he wouldn’t call more witnesses because their evidence was “repetitive.”

During the trial, Templeton heard the three men describe Wood’s “self-control program” that included punching, pulling hairs out with pliers, standing at attention for hours and running laps around the block.

She also heard about an “affection program” at the church that involved couples getting to know other spouses.

Wood said yesterday the three in the school program, John Milonas and brothers Richard and Norman Howell, were exaggerating when they described their treatment by Wood and that they have been influenced by other church members.

He said the boys told him how grateful they were for the training, which he said was to build confidence.

The two female accusers can’t be trusted either, he said.

One woman was confused about when she said Wood touched her breast. She told people that day she was offended, but never said why, he said.

Then she didn’t go to the police until after a lawsuit was launched.

Wood said he didn’t get along with the other female who says Wood pulled her bra up over her breasts.

Two women she said saw him grab her testified they didn’t see it happen, Wood noted. And the timing of her complaint was the same time as the lawsuit.

Wood said all his witnesses testified voluntarily and said they never saw anything sexual in the church or saw Wood be cruel.

He said his witnesses were aware the boys could leave the self-control program at any time.

Assistant Crown attorney Peter Kierluk pointed out Wood admitted in his testimony he punched the boys and pulled hairs from their faces.

“Mr. Wood hasn’t denied but in fact had pointed (to it) with some pride,” he said.

Kierluk said there was no evidence Wood asked the boys if he could punch or pull their hair out and there was evidence the pupils were “terrified” of Wood.

He called Wood’s conduct “oppressive use of exercise of authority.”

Templeton set April 18 for her judgment — a hearing that is expected to last two hours.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Jane Sims, The London Free Press, Apr. 5, 2008,

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday April 7, 2008.
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