Judge sends Whaley case to Polk

Daily Courier/January 21, 2005
By Jerry Stensland

Rutherfordton -- The appeal trial from Jane Whaley's assault conviction will have to wait a little while longer after Whaley was granted a requested change of venue for her case.

Whaley, the leader and co-founder of the controversial Word of Faith Fellowship church, was found guilty in March of 2004 of misdemeanor assault on Lacy Wien, who was a member of the church at the time.

Whaley's attorneys wanted the case shifted to Transylvania County, but instead it will be heard in Polk County starting on Feb. 7.

Wien, who has since left the church, testified that Whaley was angry about a relationship Wien wanted with her now husband, Ruben Wien.

Wien said Whaley restrained her for over an hour and assaulted her, leaving bruises, banging her head against a wall several times and holding her down on a table while shouting at her.

Whaley did not take the stand last March, but other church members present, including Wien's mother, called the incident a meeting designed to protect Wien from what they considered the risks of dating Ruben and/or leaving the church.

Tuesday, the Assistant District Attorney Joe Hamrick argued against the change of venue for the case, which is being heard in Superior Court. The appeal will be a jury trial.

Judge Dennis Winner awarded the change of venue. A motion by the defense to dismiss the case was denied.

Jury selection was originally scheduled to begin Wednesday, but is now expected to start on Feb. 7.

Last March, after hearing five hours of testimony, Judge Robert Cilley found Whaley guilty citing, among other things, the testimony Wien's mother, Lisa Brown, who testified for Whaley's defense.

"The defendant came in and asked if she (Wien) had fornicated with him (Ruben)," said Cilley in summarizing the facts that day. "It was spoken in a loud voice. I can't hear the love in that. At this point, according to Lisa Brown, the defendant took the plaintiff by the shoulders and tried to get her attention."

WOFF members testified that Wien was a willing participant in the meeting.

But Wien stated otherwise.

"Jane stormed into the room and she was just in a rage. Her face was all tightened up and she had her hands up. She grabbed me right here (around the neck and shoulders) and pulled me up and put me on the edge of a table and started banging my head against a wall. She kept saying I was a fornicator," Wien said.

During testimony and examination witnesses for Whaley said that Wien was scared of Ruben and that was why she was acting strange in the days before the assault.

Lynn Millwood, Brown and Lacy's brother Collin Brown said that the meeting where the assault took place was beneficial to Wien. Millwood was in the room during the incident.

"She felt like a load had been lifted off her and it was the best meeting she had ever had," said Millwood on the stand.

The District Court conviction did not include jail time for the Class 2 misdemeanor, but Whaley was ordered to pay court costs and was given a $100 fine.

Wien recently dropped a civil lawsuit she had filed against the church.

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