NEWTON, NC – Two assistant attorneys for North Carolina’s 25 District are no longer working there after an Associated Press investigation outlined potential cover ups of abuse allegations against the Word of Faith Fellowship Church in Spindale.
The news comes after District Attorney David Learner asked the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations to investigate the allegations listed in the article.
“On Monday, March 6, The Associated Press released a story containing allegations against two Assistant District Attorneys employed by me in the 25th Judicial District. On Tuesday, March 7, I requested that the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into The Associated Press allegations.”
The attorneys are Assistant District Attorney Frank Webster and Assistant District Attorney Chris Back.
Both men are ministers within the church, according to the Associated Press.
For 18 months, the Associated Press investigated the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale, North Carolina. The reporters talked to 43 members who had left the church, who described years of mental, physical, and sexual abuse.
The article says Back and Webster provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member.
The ex-congregants also said that Back and Webster, who is sect leader Jane Whaley’s son-in-law, helped derail a social services investigation into child abuse in 2015 and attended meetings where Whaley warned congregants to lie to investigators about abuse incidents, according to the Associated Press report.
“I, along with my staff, have worked very hard in the past two years to rebuild the reputation of the DA’s Office, and I cannot allow the integrity of the office to be called into question. My administration is dedicated to the fair and impartial administration of criminal justice for the citizens of Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties,” said District Attorney David Learner.
The news release says Assistant District Attorney Lance Sigmon will be the Chief ADA in Burke County, and Kyle Smith will be the Chief ADA in Catawba County.