Three Ohio pastors have been arraigned in court over an 11-count superseding indictment charge which includes conspiracy to sex traffic teenagers.
The clergymen, Rev. Cordell Jenkins, 47, Rev. Anthony Haynes, 38 and Rev. Kenneth Butler, 37, all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
An assistant US Attorney, Michael Freeman told the court that prosecutors will recommend life sentences for the men if they are convicted.
U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman said in a news release that, “These three men violated the trust of these children and the communities they purported to serve.
“We are grateful for the courage of the victims and the dedication of our law enforcement personnel in bringing these men to justice.”
Reports from the US Attorney’s Office reveal that a girl who was just 14 when the conspiracy began in 2014 was sexually assaulted by all three men.
Some of the sexual encounters are believed to have occurred at Greater Life Christian Center where Haynes was a pastor.
Prosecutor says that between 2014 and 2017, Haynes groomed and exploited the girl. He used his cell phone to record the sexual assaults, routinely gave her money afterward and warned her not to tell anyone.
Haynes is also accused of introducing the teenager to other men, including Jenkins for sexual activity and for sharing pornographic photographs and videos.
Prosecutors alleged that between December 2016, and March 2017, Mr Jenkins sexually exploited the girl at his West Toledo home on Barrington Drive, at his office at Abundant Life Ministries where he was the pastor, and at a motel in Toledo.
They said he usually paid her between $100 and $300 for sex. A payment which he referred to as ‘hush money’. Like his associate Haynes, he is accused of recording some of the interactions with his cell phone.
Jenkins is also accused of paying for sex act with another underage girl in March.
Butler is charged with trafficking a third underage girl between 2015 and March, 2017. Court documents revealed that the girl told investigators she met Butler at Haynes’ church when she was 15 and he would give her rides to his church in the Detroit area.
The girl claimed Butler had sex with her in his car and he paid for it once. She also said he told her to lie to the FBI if she was questioned about him.
Haynes and Butler have been charged with obstruction of a sex trafficking investigation. Haynes is accused of trying to destroy electronic evidence of sex trafficking and Butler for instructing another to lie as well as lying to law enforcement agents about his involvement.
The District Court Judge, Jack Zouhary at their arraignment on Tuesday, asked each of them to tell him a little about their educational and work backgrounds.
Haynes said he is a former pastor while Jenkins claimed he had ‘Pastored full time’ for the past 23 years.
Butler who is a pastor of Kingdom Encounter Family Worship Center did not mention serving as a pastor but said he had taken up several security jobs, most recently at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center, Mercy Health St. Anne Hospital and Mercy Health St. Anne Hospital and Mercy Health St. Charles Hospital.
It was learnt that Buttler who was not named in the original indictment filed in April against Jenkins and Haynes was indicted on two counts of sex trafficking of children and one count of obstruction of a sex trafficking investigation.
Judge Zouhary, however, fixed a January 8 status hearing for all three co-defendants who are to remain in police custody.