RUTHERFORD COUNTY, N.C. — A long-awaited response from the Covington/Fenner trial judge Gary Gavenus’ June 6, 2017 gag order was filed in the Rutherford County Clerk of Court’s office on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017.
Judge Gary Gavenus had imposed a gag order on this June 6, 2017 trial on members of the jury, witnesses, and attorneys in the long-awaited trial of the Matthew Fenner case against Word of Faith Fellowship leader Brooke Covington. Judge Gavenus made the gag order in order to preserve the defendants’ right to a fair trial.
Gavenus issued orders this week resolving the two motions to revise or dissolve the gag order — one filed by Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers, Jr. and one by the Associated Press and Charlotte Observer. Judge Gavenus denied Byers request, but ordered the sealed documents from the Covington mistrial be given to the State Bureau of Investigation by the Clerk of Court in his modified gag order.
The Associated Press and Charlotte Observer’s motion to lift the gag order in its entirety was denied with the above exceptions as stated in his response to the State. Gavenus did acknowledge that without the free press these matters may not have come to light, but emphasized again that he wished to preserve the rights of the defendants by having the case tried in court instead of the media.
However, Gavenus wrote that he did not intend the gag order to exist indefinitely and is concerned about the length of time it has taken for these cases to come to trial. He ordered the gag order to expire on March 31, 2018.
The five defendants who are or were members of WoFF are being tried separately. Fenner alleges that on January 27, 2013 that he was held against his will and subjected to WoFF’s controversial practice of blasting to remove his homosexual demons. Blasting as explained in court is a group practice of shouting as loud as possible for long lengths of time. Further, in Fenner’s case, he alleges he was also beaten and strangled.
The Covington trial ended in mistrial with two incidents of jury tampering. The jury foreman, Perry Shade, was associated with both incidents. Shade against the judge’s instructions brought in his research into the jury room and the integrity of the jury was compromised. Many questions have arisen about the circumstances around that event.
The order in its entirety is printed below as it includes details in the quoted transcript of the trial’s events.