An Ohio pastor sentenced to life in prison last year for grooming a teenage girl to have sex with him and two other pastors is seeking compassionate release from prison by claiming his life is threatened by the coronavirus.
Pastor Anthony Haynes, the 41-year-old former leader of the Greater Life Christian Center in Toledo, who had insisted that he didn’t deserve life in prison for grooming his victim beginning when she was 14, filed two handwritten motions in U.S. District Court seeking compassionate release during the coronavirus pandemic, the Toledo Blade reported. One motion was filed on Oct. 30 and another was filed earlier this month, the publication reported.
The former church leader, who is being held at the Federal Correctional Institution in Gilmer County, West Virginia, a medium-security prison, said he was worried about his health, as well as the health of his mother, while he remains incarcerated.
He claimed he suffered from sleep apnea, a respiratory condition, athlete’s foot, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, a sinus condition, an umbilical hernia, and diverticulitis — which is inflammation or an infection in the digestive tract — in his Oct. 30 motion, according to the publication.
Haynes also noted that he was worried about the health of his almost 80-year-old mother, who is caring for his children.
“I need to see my family again not in a casket but alive,” he wrote earlier this month. “My mother is old and getting older and I want to be by her side. She has been sick for a while and I just want the chance to live with her again before the Lord calls her home.”
Haynes, was arrested and slapped with federal sex trafficking charges in 2017 along with Pastor Kenneth Butler, now 40, of Kingdom Encounter Family Worship Center and the Rev. Cordell Jenkins, now 49, who once led Abundant Life Ministries.
Court documents said Butler, Jenkins and Haynes sexually assaulted a juvenile girl beginning in 2014 through 2017. The victim was allegedly 14 when the assaults began while in Haynes' custody. Some of the assaults allegedly took placed at Haynes’ church.
Haynes reportedly routinely paid the girl money after the sex acts and warned her not to say anything about their activities as it would ruin his family and his church.
He later introduced her to Jenkins, who allegedly sexually exploited the girl at his home repeatedly, as well as at his office at Abundant Life Ministries and at a motel in Toledo, according to court documents. He reportedly paid the girl and recorded some of their activities with his cellular phone. He also allegedly exploited another underage girl who engaged in commercial sexual activity in March 2017.
Even though he expressed sympathy for Haynes’ five children at the time of his sentencing, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman pointed out the “disgusting, horrible” things that occurred in the case as well as the disgraced pastor’s lack of remorse.
“Society relies on people of trust. ... It’s totally violated here and we have to send a message,” Friedman said.
Prosecutors had until Dec. 14 to file their response to Haynes’ motions and the former pastor will also get the opportunity to respond by Jan. 14, 2021, before Friedman makes a decision.
Haynes’ stepdaughter, Alexis Fortune, who had also requested compassionate release for health reasons of her own — including asthma and being overweight — had her request granted last Thursday. She was convicted of trying to persuade the victim not to testify against her stepfather.
Friedman said in a virtual hearing that he believes the nearly two years Fortune spent in custody since her arrest, without requesting bond, was “a long time for a woman that’s never had a criminal record before” the Toledo Blade said.
He explained that much of the time she served was at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio in Stryker and inmates there endure more difficult conditions than those at federal prisons.
“She did serve some hard time while she was there,” Friedman said. “She did it because she wanted to.”