>> Controversial pastor and activist Kenneth Adkins charged with child molestation in Brunswick
Vendredi, le pasteur Kenneth Adkins a été arrêté par le bureau d’investigation de l’Etat de Géorgie pour pédophilie. Il est accusé par un jeune homme membre de sa congrégation d’« abus sexuels ». Les faits remonteraient à 2010, selon la Police.
Son épouse, Charlotte Adkins, dénonce une décision précipitée et s'inquiète de la santé mentale du garçon, dont ils étaient « les mentors » : « il faisait partie de notre ministère dédié aux adolescents et nous le traitions comme un membre de notre famille, de notre église. Il est profondément perturbé, c'est certain, mais nos pensées et prières l'accompagnent encore maintenant », a t-elle souligné, confiante quant à la levée des charges qui pèsent contre son mari, dont elle assure en attendant les fonctions au sein de la congrégation.
— TheWrap (@TheWrap) 27 août 2016
Activiste anti-gay et partisan notamment de la loi HB 757, qui proposait entre-autres de permettre aux patrons de « licencier ou de refuser d’embaucher un homosexuels », comme aux élus de marier un couple de même sexe, au nom de leurs « convictions religieuses », Kenneth Adkins avait également estimé que les victimes de la tuerie du juin au Pulse d'Orlando, n'en étaient pas et méritaient leur sort : « J’ai vécu tant de choses avec ces homosexuels de Jacksonville que je ne les vois pas comme des victimes. Elles ont eu ce qu’elles méritaient ».
Des propos partagés sur son compte Twitter, « sans référence à la fusillade », a t-il assuré ensuite, mais à un groupe tout particulier de Jacksonville qui aurait fait de sa vie un enfer, alors qu'il siégeait au conseil régional.
Le procureur Kevin Gough, qui assure la défense du pasteur, a d'ailleurs évoqué ses prises de positions, suggérant une motivation politique aux accusations, et souligne qu'il s'est de lui-même livré aux autorités.
Ancien toxicomane, Kenneth Adkins a déjà fait de la prison entre 1996-97 pour des délits de drogue, d'où l'attention de son église portée à la réinsertion des délinquants et ex-détenus.
En attendant l'audience préliminaire...
>> Kenneth Adkins, a Brunswick pastor in Georgia who doubles as a political consultant in the Jacksonville area, has gotten into his share of controversies and conflicts. But none perhaps as serious as he’s facing now.
Adkins, 56, turned himself over to Glynn County authorities Friday morning on charges of aggravated child molestation and child molestation stemming from allegations made by a young male former member of his congregation.
« We are disappointed with what appears to be a rush to judgment by law enforcement authorities in this case, » said his wife, Charlotte Stormy Adkins. « We are confident that Kenneth Adkins will be found innocent of all charges. »
Attorney Kevin Gough, hired to represent Adkins on Thursday, said a bail hearing could be as early as Monday, but a preliminary hearing on the charges likely won’t occur until Sept. 9.
« He looks forward to having his day in court, » Gough said.
Stacy Carson, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Kingsland office, said District Attorney Jackie Johnson asked the GBI on Aug. 12 to assist the Brunswick Police Department in the investigation. It focused on suspected molestation in several locations in the Brunswick area including at Adkins’ church, a vehicle and a victim’s home, Carson said.
The incidents possibly occurred in 2010 and would have had to involve someone younger than 16 for child molestation charges to be brought.
Charlotte Adkins said she and her husband, despite the allegations, share a concern for the mental health of the accuser who the couple has mentored.
« This young man was part of our teen ministry, » she said. « Ken and I have treated him like family, as has our church. He is a deeply troubled young man, to be sure, but our thoughts and prayers remain with him even now. »
Adkins has asked to be placed on unpaid leave from The Greater Church Brunswick on Altama Avenue — the Greater Church also has congregations in Jacksonville and Atlanta — while his case is adjudicated. His wife said she will serve as acting pastor.
Adkins is a controversial figure in Jacksonville politics, particularly because of comments and crude caricatures he posted on his Twitter account while he helped lead the fight against expanding Jacksonville’s anti-discrimination law to cover lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Among the criticisms that Adkins lodged was his assertion that expanding the law would make it easier for sexual predators to find victims in bathrooms.
Adkins served as a panelist last December on one of the community forums that debated whether Jacksonville should broaden the law. Mayor Lenny Curry ultimately decided against doing so.
Gough hinted that there could be a political motivation to the charges brought against Adkins.
« Given his past very vocal positions on issues, it’s a concern, » Gough said.
After the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando in June, Adkins tweeted, « been through so much with these Jacksonville homosexuals that I don’t see none of them as victims. I see them as getting what they deserve. »
Adkins later said he wasn’t referring to the shooting victims, but instead his tweet was « strictly meant for the Jacksonville group that has made my life a living hell » since he served on the community discussion panel.
He also said he would withdraw completely from the debate about the city’s human rights ordinance. He said his public relations firm would not work for any clients opposed to changing the law and he would not make any comments himself.
Besides his activism in the human rights ordinance debate, Adkins has operated a public relations agency and been an advocate for helping ex-convicts rebuild their lives after their release from prison.
Adkins has said he benefitted from a second chance himself after he developed a serious cocaine addiction and eventually « hit rock bottom » when he spent 10 months in the Duval County jail in 1996-97 on drug-related crimes. Part of his church’s mission involved helping ex-offenders find work.
His work as a political consultant has been marked by harsh attacks on opponents. In 2012 a Glynn County magistrate ordered Adkins to stop using his Facebook and social media accounts to call a School Board member « a fool » or a « runaway slave. » The order also barred Adkins from using the term « child molester” without proof when criticizing a worker for two local campaigns.
Last month Adkins admitted he made up an endorsement that he posted on Facebook falsely stating that state Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, had endorsed J. Peter Murphy in a race for the Glynn County Commission.
« I told a lie, » Adkins told the Times-Union but added, « Politics is lying and stretching the truth. »
He also advises political candidates such as current Glynn County Commissioner Mark Stambaugh and hosted a radio show referring to himself as the black conservative.
In June he helped organize a news conference outside the Duval County Courthouse with other black clergymen calling for Circuit Judge Mark Hulsey to resign over complaints that he made racist and sexist comments. Adkins worked on the campaign for Hulsey’s re-election opponent, attorney Gerald Wilkerson, but said he set up the briefing for another minister who was already a client and was concerned about claims against Hulsey.