Day One of the Thomas Chantry Trial

By | July 25, 2018

After a full first day in the courthouse pictured above, I am now at an undisclosed location where I have established the nerve center of the “Thou Art The Man” blog. It is here where I will be laboring late into the night, pounding out a daily update of the day’s court proceedings in the Thomas J. Chantry sexual and physical abuse case.

Chantry, a former Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA) pastor, is facing eight criminal counts involving five victims. The criminal charges include five counts of sexual abuse of a minor and three counts of physical abuse of a minor. There are five victims. What follows is a brief recap of the day.

Today was spent culling the jury pool, with the exception of the last hour, from 1600-1700. The potential jurists that had not been excused were sent home at 1600 and the State’s Attorney (Susan Eazer) and the Defense Attorney (John Sears) were arguing over Motions/information that they had spent much time arguing over in the Evidentiary Hearing last Thursday. But I am getting ahead of myself, more on that later.

There were 133 potential jurists in the pool. They were divided into two groups, 65 in the morning session and 67 in the afternoon session.  Of this 133, at the end of the day, only 56 jurists were still in the pool of potential jurists.

The way the Honorable Judge Astrowsky worked this process was by first conducting a brief Civics 101 course, explaining the importance of citizens serving on a jury is to our Constitutional form of government. Then he asked if there was anyone in the jury pool who was not a citizen of the USA and a resident of Yavapai County. He then discussed the schedule for the trial and asked that anyone who had scheduling conflicts to raise their jury card. (He addressed each potential juror by their number.) Judge Astrowsky then went row by row and each potential jurist that had a possible conflict would state their case. Judge Astrowsky may or may not question them further.  Individuals who had vacations planned and had purchased airline tickets, etc, were not questioned further and at the end of this process were excused from serving.

In the next step, Judge Astrowsky asked anyone who had read, seen or heard anything about the case to identify themselves. Many had read a recent report in the Prescott Daily Courier newspaper. Judge Astrowsky would then ask them if this had in any way biased them or would prevent them from deciding the case based solely and exclusively on the evidence presented in the trial.

Next, Judge Astrowsky briefly described the case to the potential jurists and asked if the nature of the case would prevent anyone from serving as an impartial jurist. Again he would interview everyone who raised their card. Some jurists requested to speak separately with the Judge, which he told them beforehand was perfectly fine to do. (I thought this would be in the Judge’s chambers, but I, along with some of the potential jurists was surprised to find out it was simply without the other jurists in the courtroom. A few of the jurists stated that they thought this would be in private, but Judge Astrowsky apologized and explained this was a public trial and this was as private as it would get.) I felt bad about this because, inevitably, those who wanted to speak with Judge Astrowsky privately had been sexually abused themselves. Of course, they were excused, but it clearly pained them to have to speak in front of those of us remaining in the courtroom. There were also individuals who broke down and wept and could not even say a word. Judge Astrowsky kindly expressed his sorrow to these individuals and immediately excused them.  I would say there were 10-12 individuals in the jury pool who had been sexually abused. One woman had been abused as a child, she appeared to now be about 60 years old, and she stated she was still traumatized by the abuse and was undergoing counseling. It just breaks my heart to hear these stories of a lifetime of pain caused by the perpetrators of these horrible crimes.

While on the subject, I should mention the individuals in the court, other than those in the jury pool. There was Judge Astrowsky, the stenographer, an aide who handles evidence, etc., some unseen clerk in a room behind the courtroom, the Bailiff, Susan Eazer (the Prosecuting Attorney), John Sears (the Defense Attorney), Richard Robertson (an aide/investigator for John Sears), and Thomas Chantry (the Defendant). Those are all the “players.” Behind the half-wall were 7 observers. One woman was a reporter for the Verde Independent Newspaper. She was only there for about an hour. Six of us were there for the whole session. Tom Chantry’s wife and her father sat together in the front row. (Her father is Al Huber, an assistant pastor in an ARBCA church in Rockford, IL) In row three was Chantry’s sister and her husband. Finally, there was me and a good friend, Dave, in the back row. He and I had both been air traffic controllers at Phoenix Approach Control and Dave had been kind enough to volunteer to cover the trial for me while I was working in Dubai. (That turned out not to be necessary as the trial had been delayed three times!)

I had mentioned in my recap of the Evidentiary Hearing held last Thursday that Tom Chantry should find somebody to make alterations on his suit because it was very ill-fitting.  Perhaps he or his team are reading my blog because the suit he was wearing today fit him nicely. (Thursday his pants were double folded over his shoes and dragging on the ground!)

The final item of the court day was a lengthy discussion of the two reports of the three-man ARBCA Investigative Committee. It was basically an exact repeat of what had been discussed on Thursday. Each party deems it important to their case.  The Defense would have liked to use it to their advantage by saying the report concluded the Chantry spankings were merely a disciplinary action. The Prosecution said, not so fast, the “sealed” report stated the punishment by Chantry was strongly suspected to be purely for Chantry’s pleasure. (In other words, his sick sexual pleasure.) Judge Astrowsky again stated he would be very restrictive on what he allowed to be said in front of a jury from those reports because, based on Arizona Statute 403, the evidence was hearsay.

I will conclude today’s blog with a few memorable quotes. First, a potential jurist asked to be dismissed because he was the sole caregiver for his elderly wife. Judge Astrowsky asked him who was providing care for her today. He said she had been waiting out in his car all day! It was around 1430 at this time. Judge Astrowsky immediately excused him.

The second quote came from a middle-aged potential jurist who had raised his card in response to not being able to remain unbiased due to the nature of the case. Judge Astrowsky queried him about whether he had the ability to set aside his biases and decide the case solely and exclusively on the basis of the evidence provided in the trial. He responded in the negative, stating that he believed “there was a special place in hell”  for men such as Tom Chantry. Needless to say, he was excused.

That’s all for today. Check back tomorrow for another update.

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