The pastor of a scandal-plagued church in Toronto, Canada, was found not guilty of sexually assaulting a member of his congregation.
Jae-Kap Song of the Jesus First Church had been accused of telling a parishioner that evil spirits would turn her into a hunchback-like creature, before sexually assaulting her.
The woman said he warned her that the evil spirit would also change the color of her skin, and then requested that she remove her clothing so he could assess whether the process had already begun.
The woman said the pastor then removed the rest of her clothing, while she lay on the bed “frozen” and in shock.
“It’s serious,” she said he told her of the skin condition, before assaulting her with his hand as he tried to convince her to have sex with him. She said she refused and he eventually backed off.
Afterward, she said she was too ashamed to tell anyone what had happened. The woman said she knew her husband admired Song and believed he was a true spiritual leader.
The alleged incident took place in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2010. Song was charged several months later, after nine members of his congregation were slapped with 485 charges — including gang rape — after Song accused them of sex crimes.
The scandal made international headlines, but last October the Crown dropped all charges against the nine members after a five-week pretrial, saying there was “no reasonable prospect of conviction.”
At the time, their lawyers claimed the accusations — including gang sexual assault, administering drugs for sex, threatening death, forcible confinement and assault — were very likely concocted on instructions from the church controversial leader, Pastor Jae-Kap (Joe) Song who was himself charged with sexual assault.
The defense lawyers also maintained that Song had cult-like power over his followers.
The Toronto Sun reports that while Justice Katherine van Rensburg was clearly “troubled” by the evidence at trial and admitted it was “possible,” the assault happened, she was not convinced “beyond reasonable doubt,” and acquitted Pastor Jae-Kap Song.
According to the paper
The judge said the complainant’s evidence at trial was “clear and compelling,” while she found Pastor Song’s testimony “troubling and unconvincing,” noting he did not answer questions with straightforward answers. […]
In the end the judge ruled that the complainant is a university educated woman and it did not make sense that she willfully followed Song to the bedroom. She also noted the woman initially reported she was digitally penetrated for 20 minutes but later testified the incident lasted only about two minutes.
The judge also noted that the woman may have had motive to concoct the story to deflect that charges that her husband originally faced.
The Orangeville Banner reports
Throughout the trial, the court heard Song held influence over the complainant as her pastor, elder and landlord.
“I am not satisfied that Pastor Song had control over the complainant and her will was overborn,” Van Rensberg said.
While Van Rensberg said Song’s role as a landlord held no influence over the complainant, she said as founder of the church, the pastor was “held in high regard” by his congregation. However, Song attempted to downplay his influence during his testimony according to Van Rensberg.
“Mr. Song attempted to minimize his level of influence in the church he founded,” Van Rensberg said. “He was the true spiritual leader.”
During his testimony, Song was evasive, and did not answer questions directly, even those posed by his own lawyer, according to Van Rensberg.
“I found his demeanour troubling,” Van Rensberg said. “Many aspects of the defence’s evidence, I did not believe.”
Song’s church congregation has dwindled from 60 to 20 followers, but he says he hopes the church will recover.