Federal authorities detained a third Toledo pastor charged with sex trafficking of a juvenile one day after the man took to social media to profess apologies, affirm a desire to please God, and a pledge to resist people who want to “tear” him down.
Agents arrested the Rev. Kenneth Butler, 37, of Kingdom Encounter Family Worship Center, without incident Wednesday evening. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said Mr. Butler’s case is connected to the previous arrests of the Revs. Cordell Jenkins and Anthony Haynes.
In an affidavit filed in federal court Thursday, an FBI agent stated a victim told investigators she met Mr. Butler at Mr. Haynes' church when she was 15, and the two of them had sex when she was 16 on at least two occasions.
On one occasion, she said, they had sex in his vehicle in an alley off the Anthony Wayne Trail, and he placed money in the center console for her.
The agent further stated that when he interviewed Mr. Butler on Wednesday about the allegations, Mr. Butler “admitted to having sex with [her] on multiple occasions... He admitted to knowing she was a minor and he admitted to giving her money on multiple occasions, including the same days as the sex acts, but refutes it was in exchange for sex.”
Federal investigators allege it was Mr. Haynes who groomed and introduced young girls to Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Butler.
“It's all part of the same conspiracy,” Mike Tobin, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said, adding that more details are likely to come out in the indictment he expects to be brought against Mr. Butler.
Mr. Butler's Facebook page, which as of Thursday was public and linked off the church's Facebook account, refers to himself as a father, husband, and prophet.
He posted a 14-minute Facebook Live video at 11:21 p.m. Tuesday with a caption of “Let me apologize....” He referred in vague terms to the harm words have and to being careful of “your connections.”
“It's never my intention to hurt or displease God. Let alone, you, the people. My heart's desire is only that we please God and we do the kingdom work that God has given us the assignment to do,” he said.
Mr. Butler continued, “The man you see today didn't happen just yesterday. It took time for this man to come to. And excuse my French, but I'll be damned if I let another person try to tear me down. A wrong is wrong and a right is right because a lot of people want to down you.”
Hours later, at 1:17 a.m. Wednesday, he posted, “If I died tonight what would your thoughts be? Be honest I’m a big boy. It’s just a question that ran through my head. Ijs.” “Ijs” typically refers to “I'm just saying.”
His last post was at 10:05 a.m. Wednesday. It read, “I’m just thankful to be in the land of the living.”
The video and first post referencing death have since been deleted. Mr. Butler through a jail spokesman declined an interview request.
The last listed address for Mr. Butler’s church is 3030 N. Reynolds Rd. in West Toledo.
Megan Davis was among those who owned a business in the same building. She said he operated his church there from roughly late spring to the middle of summer.
“It wasn't a large congregation or anything like that. It was really just his family meeting,” Ms. Davis said.
She described feeling uneasy during her first interaction with Mr. Butler.
Ms. Davis said she was later concerned about a photograph on the church's Facebook page that showed Mr. Haynes speaking. The Feb. 8 post refers to him as Apostle Anthony Haynes.
At a brief hearing in federal court Thursday, Mr. Butler waived a preliminary hearing and agreed to have his case bound over to a grand jury. Asked if he understood the charge he was facing, Mr. Butler replied he did.
Magistrate Judge James Knepp appointed attorney Adam Nightingale to represent Mr. Butler, who said he could not afford to hire his own counsel. Judge Knepp also scheduled a detention hearing for Oct. 12 at Mr. Butler's request.
Alissa Sterling, an assistant U.S. Attorney, had asked that Mr. Butler remain in custody, saying there were no terms or conditions of bond that would ensure his appearance in court or that would protect public safety.
Judge Knepp told Mr. Butler that some offenses, including those involving minor victims, carry a presumption that a defendant remain in custody.
Both Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Haynes have been held without bond since their arrests in April.
Unlike prior court appearances for Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Haynes, the courtroom was largely empty Thursday. Mr. Butler's wife was present but declined to comment afterward. Mr. Nightingale also declined to comment.
Ms. Sterling said sex trafficking of children carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a possible maximum term of life in prison.
Mr. Jenkins, who is being held at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown, is charged with two counts of sex trafficking of a minor and one count each of production of child pornography and receipt of child pornography for allegedly paying two now-17-year-old girls for sex, and soliciting nude photographs and videos from them. One of the victims attended Mr. Jenkins' church.
Mr. Haynes, who is being held at the federal prison in Milan, Mich., is charged with two counts of sex trafficking of a minor and one count each of production of child pornography and obstruction of a sex trafficking investigation.
Both Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Haynes are scheduled to be in court Nov. 14 at which time it is expected that Judge Jack Zouhary will set a trial date.
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