3 Ohio Pastors Accused of Sex Trafficking Underage Girls Face New Charges, Could Face Life in Prison

From left, Cordell Jenkins, Kenneth Butler and Anthony J. Haynes, three pastors who have been accused of assaulting teenager girls. Credit: Lucas County Sheriff’s Office

Three pastors accused of exploiting and abusing teenage girls were indicted this week on federal child sex trafficking charges in Toledo, Ohio.

The men, Kenneth Butler, 37; Anthony J. Haynes, 38; and Cordell Jenkins, 47, were charged with conspiracy for child sex trafficking as part of an 11-count indictment handed down on Tuesday, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio said. The three men pleaded not guilty.

They are accused of sexually assaulting a girl beginning in 2014, when she was 14, through 2017. Some of the abuse is thought to have taken place at hotels and at Greater Life Christian Center in Toledo, where Mr. Haynes was a pastor and used his telephone to record the sexual assaults, prosecutors said.

Mr. Haynes gave the girl money and told her not to tell anyone, saying it would ruin his family and his church, according to court documents. He “facilitated” the victim being abused by several other men, including Mr. Jenkins, who repeatedly sexually exploited the girl at his home, in his office at Abundant Life Ministries, and at a motel in Toledo, prosecutors said.

Mr. Jenkins recorded the abuse with his cellphone and paid the girl with what he called “hush money,” court documents said. He also allegedly abused a second girl in March of this year.

Mr. Butler, who was a pastor at Kingdom Encounter Family Worship Center in Detroit, about an hour from Toledo, was also indicted on sex trafficking charges involving a third girl who was abused between 2015 and March 2017, the court documents said.

“All three have religious affiliations and knew each other in that capacity,” said Michael Tobin, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office. “All three claim to be ministers in one form or another.”

The charges are part of a superseding indictment that expands sex trafficking charges originally handed down in April against Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Haynes, and adds Mr. Butler as a defendant in the case. “It takes the three of them and loops them all into one big conspiracy with three victims,” said Mr. Tobin.

The three men will remain in custody until their next hearing, scheduled for January.

Allison Folmar, a lawyer for Mr. Jenkins, said on Thursday that he had “done a lot of good” in his community, “but all of that is clearly overshadowed with what he is facing right now.”

A lawyer for Mr. Butler, Adam S. Nightingale, confirmed on Thursday that his client had pleaded not guilty, but did not comment further. Mr. Haynes’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.

Just before he was arrested in October, Mr. Butler posted a video on the church’s Facebook page introducing himself as “Pastor B,” and saying he wanted to make a “public apology.” In the video, which has since been removed, he said: “It is never my intention to hurt or displease God. Let alone you, the people.”

SOURCE: The New York Times – Christine Hauser