RUTHERFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Judge Pope heard positions and arguments from all five former and current defendants’ counsel today in Superior Court regarding a Change of Venue for the Matthew Fenner cases. With the local, state and national publicity surrounding the mistrial of Brooke Covington due to jury misconduct and the investigative studies by the Associated Press, the general remarks found consensus among the attorneys to move the case out of Rutherford County.
While Defense Attorney David Teddy who represents Brooke Covington was in court, the re-trial of the case has been left open due to Teddy’s medical issues. Sarah Covington’s attorney Ben Cooper faxed in a statement saying they had no objection to moving the trial. Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers, Jr. argued for the move to Buncombe County since there would be a larger population, approximately 250,000+ people from which to draw juries and result in a speedier resolution.
While both attorneys Krinn Evans and Brian Oglesby argued for a change of venue to McDowell County, Judge Pope had entered his own motion ex mero motu for a change of venue to Buncombe County.
Judge Marvin Pope who was the original judge on these cases several years ago reminded everyone he was intimately familiar with the events and motions of 2013 and 2014. Pope also acknowledged the June 2017 mistrial in the case against Brooke Covington – both with the loss of jury integrity and with the case of an outside party speaking to a juror. Judge Gavenus had presided over that almost 2-week trial.
After asking if there were any witnesses or affidavits to be presented and all answered negatively, Judge Pope made his ruling.
“In the interest of a fair, equal and impartial trial, I am asking the district attorney to prepare an order to move these four cases to Buncombe County.”
Pope instructed that the finding of facts, detailed histories, indictments, motions be included in that order and forwarded to the district attorney in Buncombe County. Pope went on to say “that in finding in each case is a former or current Word of Faith Fellowship member that it would be highly unlikely to receive a speedy trial in Rutherford County.”
The five defendants who are or were members of the Word of Faith Fellowship and charged in the alleged assault and kidnapping of Matthew Fenner who says he was held against his will during a deliverance session of blasting or loud prayer in the sanctuary of Word of Faith Fellowship (WoFF) on January 2013 are:
- Brooke Covington
- Justin Covington
- Adam Bartley
- Robert Louis Walker
- Sarah Anderson
Assistant District Attorney Byers will coordinate with the District Attorney’s office in Buncombe County to obtain court dates.