Day Five of the Thomas Chantry Trial

By | August 1, 2018

I’d like to start out today’s recap of the Thomas Chantry trial on a positive note. It’s my opinion that if justice is done, in a week or two Thomas Chantry will have no need of his fancy suits for a good, long time. He will be trading them in for a set of bright orange prison clothes with the initials “ADC” stenciled on the front and back.

If Chantry is convicted we can thank retired pastor Dan Rydberg because he, unlike the three men on the ARBCA investigative committee, took his job seriously, understood his legal responsibilities as a mandatory reporter of abuse and had the intestinal fortitude to carry out his duty. On Wednesday, July 8, 2015, Pastor Rydberg called the Police to report that Victim #1 had been sexually abused by Thomas Chantry. His call set in motion the wheels of justice. Eighteen years after Chantry had fled Prescott because of the alleged crimes he committed between 1995-2000 and three years after Pastor Rydberg’s phone call to Police, Thomas Chantry is on trial.

It has been reported to me that at least one of the ARBCA men on the investigative committee wanted to do the right thing and report Chantry to Law Enforcement, but the parents seemed to indicate they didn’t want to do this. Furthermore, when the ARBCA Administrative Council decided to “seal” the report and tell nobody about it, any ethical resolve the three-man committee may have had to do the right thing vanished once the bullies applied a little pressure.

We hear, almost on a daily basis, of another case of sexual abuse in the Evangelical world of American Christianity. Many of these cases involve a pastor.  The majority of the time the local church, or the denomination, or the national mission board, or the parachurch organization has, instead of reporting the abuse to Law Enforcement, covered the abuse up. I frequently read warnings from survivors of sexual abuse and their advocates that if you are sexually abused the last place you want to go for help is the church. Unfortunately, this advice is sound.

Pastor Rydberg is to be commended. He did the right thing. Sadly, he is the exception in the Church. His type seems to be a dying breed.

Pastor Rydberg traveled from out of state to testify in the Chantry trial today. He left the impression of a warm, kind, honest man. What a breath of fresh air! Thank you, sir.

The trial began at 9:05 A.M. with the continuing Redirect of Victim 2 by State’s Attorney, Susan Eazer.

Victim 2 had written a letter to the ARBCA three-man investigative committee in November 2000. This letter detailed many of the horrors he endured at the hands of Thomas Chantry. Victim 2 was 16 years old when he wrote the letter and not yet to the point where he felt safe in telling others that the routine spankings he received from Chantry also involved Chantry fondling his genitals for approximately ten minutes. Victim 2 revealed this information fifteen years later when the Prescott Police interviewed him.

Included in the letter was the information that Chantry took down his pants because he “wanted to see my buttocks turn red” when he spanked me. (Victim 2 later revealed to police that after the spanking Chantry fondled his genitals skin to skin.)

When Victim 2 spent the night at Chantry’s home, Chantry “started out as an angel but soon turned into a demon.”

Chantry revealed two new paddles which would be used that night.

Victim 2 said on the days he was to go to Chantry’s for his after-school tutoring sessions he sat in dread all day at school.

Victim 2 said he hated Chantry and knew he would continue until someone stops him.

Exhibit 65 was shown to Victim 2. It was a letter he had written pastor Don Lindblad. Victim 2 had attempted to get in contact with Chantry in 2006. Chantry did not respond but instead had Lindblad respond on his behalf. Lindblad had told Victim 2 that Chantry had no interest in talking to him. In his response to Lindblad Victim 2 said he was not going away and would show up at Chantry’s church if necessary.

In 2006 Chantry agreed to a three-way phone call with Victim 2 and Don Lindblad. Victim 2 thought about calling the police on Chantry after the phone call but his parents told him not to.

In 2009 Victim 2 attempted to reach Chantry again. When questioned as to why he did this he responded: “I wanted to keep him away from kids.”

State’s Attorney Eazer finished her Redirect by asking Victim 2 if he will ever forget what Chantry did to him?

Victim 2 firmly responded, “I will not.”

 

@10:53 the State called Victim 3 to the witness stand.

My impressions of Victim 3 were that he was very believable. He clearly is deeply troubled by what he suffered at the hands of Chantry. Many times when he was asked about details of the Chantry beatings he had received he would have difficulty overcoming his emotions and speaking. His body language depicted a wounded, fearful soul. When recalling a specific event he would rub his hands up and down his legs and sink back in his chair. However, when asked to identify Chantry in the court, or asked what he thought of Chantry he seemed to be a different person. He channeled his hatred of Chantry into boldness and strength, defiantly pointing out the man as if to say to Chantry, you no longer have power over me.

His testimony concerning what his life as a child consisted of mirrored much of what the other victims had said. He was raised in a religious home. He was taught to respect his elders, his church, and his pastor. His family attended church all day on Sunday and again on Wednesday evening, he was basically a good child and rarely needed to be disciplined.

During the summer of 1999 Chantry had agreed to babysit/tutor three children, Victim 3, his sister (Victim 4) and DL. Almost immediately Chantry began spanking the children for inconsequential, minor things. The spankings were very hard and were administered with a boat oar, a paddle or his hand.  After the spankings, Chantry would rub his butt and be forced to hug Chantry.

Victim 3 recalled several specific incidents of spankings. One time they were in the yard of the parsonage and Chantry wanted to play croquet. Victim 3 was not interested in playing, he preferred playing Pokemon or drawing. Tom took him to his office, took his pants down and spanked him very hard with his hand.

Chantry frequently told Victim 3 that disobeying him was like disobeying God. He told him if he told his parents about anything he would not get into heaven. Sometimes Chantry spanked him for disobedience and sometimes for acts not yet committed.

Victim 3 said he was spanked multiple times with his pants down. The spankings left bruises or marks. He and his sister had told their parents about the spankings after the first time and their father had then confronted Chantry. This seemed to result in more spankings delivered harder. So the three children made a pact among themselves to not tell their parents about the spankings and to try to protect each other.

Victim 3 was interviewed by the three-man ARBCA investigative committee. He told them about the bare bottoms spankings and the bruisings. He was told they would take care of everything.

When asked by the Defense Attorney, John Sears what he thought should have been done Victim 3 replied that someone should have gone to the police, Tom should have been arrested.

Sears responded, “Eighteen years ago?”

Victim 3 answered, “Yes.”

At 2:12 P.M. the State called Victim 4 to the stand.

My impression of Victim 4 was that she was a very strong witness. She spoke clearly and strongly and had a good memory of most events.

Victim 4 is the sister of Victim 3. She was with Victim 3 and DL  during the tutoring sessions in the summer of 1999. She was spanked once by Chantry and she stated it was the hardest she has ever been struck in her life. She said it knocked the wind out of her. She witnessed one spanking of her brother and many times she heard her brother and the other victim scream and cry from the spankings they received.

She felt guilty that she could do nothing to protect her brother. Chantry told her not to tell her parents and said, “God is not going to love you and I am not going to love you if you disobey me.”

She believed Chantry and believed God might punish her and she would not get into heaven if she disobeyed Chantry.

She said she never liked Chantry because he was angry, loud, abrupt and had a “holier than thou” attitude.

Victim 4 said she talked to the ARBCA three-man investigative committee for around an hour. The committee told her parents that, “Tom would no longer be a pastor ever again.” She remembers her parents being quite shocked when they heard that Chantry was once again a pastor.

At 4:10 P.M. the State called TW to the witness stand. He is the father of Victims 3 and 4. He was questioned for about 20 minutes and then around 4:30 P.M. the Judge called a halt to the proceedings for the day.

The jury was dismissed and then they discussed a request by Eazer to call her witnesses out of order because a few of them were having scheduling difficulties and she wanted to get them on the stand tomorrow.  The Defense and Judge agreed to this. TW’s testimony will be suspended and he will be brought back at a later time.

The Judge also admonished the Attorneys for repetitively asking witnesses the same question. He said he could not ask them to shorten their examinations, but told them they were falling behind schedule and needed to attempt to turn the case over to the jury as scheduled.

IMO Sears is the major culprit here. The man is a seasoned lawyer so perhaps he has a strategy involved in laboriously going over timelines and details that appear to me, a legal neophyte,  to have no bearing on the case. For example, he put a photo of the parsonage on the overhead and then asked Victim 4 to describe in detail the interior of the house. She did an amazing job of describing the place, but that was not the end of it. Sears then pointed to each window along the side of the house and asked what room each window was in. On and on he went, it was quite painful to sit through. I can only hope tomorrow they heed the Judge’s admonition.

 

 

 

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Tim Fulton

Hi I attended Grace Reformed Baptist Church when Tom Chantry was a member there and got to know him his father and his mother. I also know his father-in-law and never did I ever witness anything of the sort that Tom is charged with. I also attended Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Milwaukee where Tom was the pastor for over a year. Never in all my time attending there did I ever witness any of the egregious things Tom is charged with. As a mental health professional with over 20 years experience I feel I am a good if not excellent judge of character. I honestly find it very hard to believe the things that Tom is charged with. I also find it very disheartening that this blog has already decided on his fate and his guilt. On more than one occasion I have seen children influenced by parents or other adults so that they embellish incidents. I honestly feel that could well be what is happening here. As the father of five children who are now grown adults if Tom is in fact guilty of the things he is charged with I would hope that he would receive the full penalty of the law. Once again I just want to emphasize in all my times knowing Tom and witnessing his dealings with children many times in both church-related and social activities never in all these times did I ever witness anything remotely of the things he is charged with.

James Altvater

None of you know me, my wife and Tom are cousins. I have known Tom for many years and I have recently been made more aware of this issue simply because of the recent official trial. After reading most of the comments on this blog, it appears that Tom is guilty in all of your minds. So be it. I am not the one who knows the ultimate truth, only God almighty does. You don’t know the ultimate truth either. I however, am having a very hard time accepting that Tom Chantry has done all the things mentioned here. It is just too far of a leap in my mind to imagine that these things were done by him. No, I believe there may be something else at work here, and my prayer is that it is revealed. I will not claim that Tom is innocent either. If he is guilty, truly in the eyes of God, Tom should suffer the consequences given him, and he should feel the utmost remorse for hurting those children all those years ago. Most of you are behaving as if the court system in this country, and in this case, is infallible; as if innocent people have never gone to jail unjustly. Do you really believe that every accusation of crime is authentic? Of course we all know this is not true. However, I must tell you that if there is a scheme here to put an innocent man in jail. A scheme to take him from his ministry. A scheme to take him from his wife and children. Don’t think for one second that the ultimate judge, the Lord God Almighty, will not let a horrible scheme to slander an innocent Christian servant go unpunished. If he is guilty, he deserves punishment. If he is truly not guilty in the eyes of God, I pray that God will reveal it because that crime would be a spiritual attack on His church.

I pray that the truth be revealed, but I feel a strange darkness in the circumstances surrounding this case.

To God be all the Glory, let His truth be revealed.

Rae

Janna (got the spelling right this time!) – thank you, thank you, thank you! You are exactly right – hypocrisy run amok. My kids went to a Baptist church sponsored school and it was all about appearances and legalism. The kids would get a demerit if they missed a belt loop or their shirt became untucked (after so many demerits – you got in school suspension), yet the music teacher and esteemed member of the school board was arrested and sent to state prison for molesting boys on the school property. Gimme a break.

Many years before that, we attended a Sovereign Grace sponsored church (another hornet’s nest), and there was a woman who attended who was older, had been alone for many years, and started having an illicit (gasp!) affair – she was brought before the whole church, called out for her sin, and told she had to repent or else find another church. Shortly thereafter, a young man was found to be doing the same thing; however, he was treated very differently. It was like, “Well, he stumbled and gave in to his desires. We need to be understanding and give him another chance.” Barf. This “boys will be boys mentality” needs to stop also.

M. Wiggins

I’ve been an attorney for many years, and in my opinion the analysis of many here is correct: Sears is very obviously setting up a scenario in which he can poke holes in the stories based on misstatements. Surely someone has said something that was inaccurate under cross. I don’t know how many windows are in my own house offhand and probably would make some errors if someone showed me pictures of my current house and asked which room was this or that was in. Who here could do it all with cocksure 100% accuracy under the pressure of cross examination before a jury? As one who has gotten tongue-tied and had my mind go blank in court before (and most lawyers and witnesses have probably shared this experience), I say “good luck” to those who think they could just rattle off even basic information about themselves and their recent activities without a hitch or a pounding heart under such circumstances.

If I had a client who had numerous witnesses testifying against him, I’d be forced to do the exact same thing: pick away at the edges, find something amiss, then hammer at it. What else does he have but pointing out inaccuracies, then waving his arms in front of the jury about burdens of proof and standards of proof?

Appalled

Thank you for your work. Unfortunately having been a member at this ARBCA church I know all these men very well. I am astonished and appalled at what is going on here and the lengths to which they are going to prove his “innocence”. I know the mantra of “innocent until proven guilty” but this man was proven guilty in my opinion in the initial police reports. Unfortunately Mr. Huber (father-in-law) will not stop and I fear for those under his care, the people in his church that have to endure this heartwrenching saga and hear him preach about “spiritual persecution” from the pulpit in reference to Tom’s situation… May God have mercy on all involved

Dee Parsons

Thank you, Todd! Excellent write up. Chantry makes me sick!!!! I believe and stand with the victims.

Lydia

“Also, people who covered up allegations of abuse against Tom Chantry can almost certainly
be sued in civil court. The bar for winning cases in civil court is “a preponderance of evidence.” That is much easier to establish than the “proof beyond a resdinable doubt” standard used in criminal cases.”.

I had not thought of this. Oh my.

“For example, he put a photo of the parsonage on the overhead and then asked Victim 4 to describe in detail the interior of the house. She did an amazing job of describing the place, but that was not the end of it. Sears then pointed to each window along the side of the house and asked what room each window was in. On and on he went, it was quite painful to sit through. I can only hope tomorrow they heed the Judge’s admonition.”

This just burns my biscuits. Surely, this sort of thing will backfire?

Amy M

I believe Sears does have a strategy behind the questions he keeps asking and re-asking. I believe the weight of his defense will hinge on trying to persuade the jury that the victims suffer from False Memory Syndrome. He will call in at least one expert witness to carefully explain this syndrome to the jury. The expert witness will overwhelm jurors with case studies proving that some memories of past events, including sexual offenses, can be false. This issue was a big deal back in the early 1990’s when Recovered Memory Therapy was being used. Some of the “recovered memories” of past child abuse could not be substantiated or simply did not occur. Well meaning therapists were guiding patients to recover past traumas, often through guided imagery hypnosis, and in doing so may have subtly implanted some suggestions that were then extrapolated. This phenomenon impacted some criminal cases, some involving innocent daycare workers. This isn’t meant to be an in-depth explanation of either psychological term. I’m just reading the legal tea leaves here. First, Sears is making the victims state how long ago the crimes occurred over and over, hoping that they may be off by a year or two, but if not, it is still relevant in emphasizing the alleged crimes occurred a really long time ago. Look how many times the pastors at Highpoint Memphis stated that the Andy Savage assault occurred TWO DECADES ago. They pounded on that time frame over and over, because humans assume that time heals all wounds so something that happened 20 years ago isn’t a big deal that the offender needs to be punished severely for. If it was a big deal, it would have been brought up sooner. For many reasons, this is NOT how child sexual assault reporting works. The questioning of building structural and architectural details, including where the windows were, will also go to false memory syndrome. At a later point Sears will question how the victims could see or hear what they claim they saw and heard when this window is X number of feet away, or this room had sound-proofing insulation or you said you were in this room when you heard the crying but that isn’t physically possible, or whatever. He is trying to trip them up on small details in order to suggest that when they said they recalled this or that detail – “A-HA! They were wrong! That window did not even exist back in the ’90’s so how can we trust anything they are now saying?!” It’s a fishing expedition of sorts, but really, what else does Sears have to work with? It’s not the typical he said/she said – now let’s just discredit each victim, one by one. It’s he said, and he said, and he said, and she said, and he and she saw and heard and so on. The jury should decide based on the cumulative overwhelming evidence: There are too many witnesses who lived through Chantry’s torture with very similar patterns of abuse and predator preferences coming to light. Sears’ (defense team) only hope is to convince the jurors that the kids are suffering from false memory syndrome and that perhaps one of their therapists planted the seeds of the molestation in what was otherwise just a spanking. Then the kids got together and compared notes and voila! They cooked up this abuse scheme to get even with a pastor they all intensely disliked. Watch and see if Sears doesn’t say or do something that allows for the disdain the victims and their parents have for Chantry to be on display? He wants the jury to see vendetta written on this, for his closing argument. Hopefully, the state will bring their own expert witness forensic psychologist who can carefully explain to the jury what the mental disorder of paraphilia is and explain the extreme levels of sexual gratification that Chantry got from planning and executing his acts of sexual sadism against powerless victims. The terror and intimidation the children experienced as Chantry unveiled his custom made implements of torture and talked with eager anticipation of turning their bottoms red with them, gave him supreme sexual fulfillment. Forcing them to choose which device would inflict their imminent pain was a form of psychological terrorism to these kids but also a form of sexual arousal to Chantry. The state needs to bring their own experts in to explain this because the average American is not familiar with deviant sexual behavior and paraphilias which are incurable, so locking up Chantry is the only way we have to keep the public safe from his deviant acts. In some states, the act of doing anything to a minor to fulfill the sexual gratification of an authority figure can be a felony, regardless of what body parts were touched. So the spankings and bottom rubbing alone could convict Chantry. However, Arizona has no such law. The sentences for convictions of sexually abusing children in Arizona are extremely harsh. When The Dangerous Crimes Against Children Act was passed (in the late ’80’s I believe) it was one of the harshest laws passed at the time. The Trial Lawyers Association was up in arms. Some factions in the judiciary resented the implementation of such high minimum sentences. Judges are used to having a lot of judicial discretion. This Act removed that from them. The real fangs in this law wasn’t just the high minimums of time served, but that sentences could not be suspended and could not be served concurrently. Concurrent sentences are often administered, which is why the public can see criminals who commit a lot of crimes getting out after just a few years of time served. The one counter-balance to the Dangerous Crimes Against Children Act, is that the genitals or anus must be touched in order for the state to recognize the crime as a sexual assault of a child. Again, this is different from other states. Because the penalties for a… Read more »

Cheryl

“Victim 2 had written a letter to the ARBCA three-man investigative committee in November 2000. This letter detailed many of the horrors he endured at the hands of Thomas Chantry. Victim 2 was 16 years old when he wrote the letter and not yet to the point where he felt safe in telling others that the routine spankings he received from Chantry also involved Chantry fondling his genitals for approximately ten minutes. Victim 2 revealed this information six years later when the Prescott Police interviewed him.”

I am confused about the timeline here. Victim 2 was interviewed by the Prescott Police in 2006 (6 years after he wrote the letter in 2000) and told them of the sexual abuse? Was nothing done then, is the time lapse different, or am I missing something?

Vince Wood

Todd, thank you for reporting. I thank God for Pastor Rydberg. I am not sure that he is the exception as he know of many of us who work hard to protect the victims. When we do our job, nobody notices. When other’s fail, we are painted with the same brush.

Headless Unicorn Guy

“IMO Sears is the major culprit here. The man is a seasoned lawyer so perhaps he has a strategy involved in laboriously going over timelines and details that appear to me, a legal neophyte, to have no bearing on the case. For example, he put a photo of the parsonage on the overhead and then asked Victim 4 to describe in detail the interior of the house. She did an amazing job of describing the place, but that was not the end of it. Sears then pointed to each window along the side of the house and asked what room each window was in.”

I know this drill.
It’s an old Debater’s trick beloved by sociopaths going for the kill (Twirl those Pens!)
Nitpicking for any flaw, ANY TRIVIAL FLAW WHATOSEVER in victim’s memory that he can expand to discredit her entire testimony Because She Couldn’t Remember It EXACTLY RIght! HOW CAN WE TRUST ANY OF HER TESTIMONY?

Headless Unicorn Guy

“We hear, almost on a daily basis, of another case of sexual abuse in the Evangelical world of American Christianity. Many of these cases involve a pastor.”

From reading this and other watchblogs, diddling kids has become another Privilege of Pastoral Rank.

But then in pagan Roman culture, Paterfamilias had total sexual rights over all his animate property as Privilege of Rank…

“DUDE! YOU! HAVE! SEX! WITH! CHILDREN!”
South Park, Stan’s comeback to the NAMBLAns justification speech at the end of “Cartman Joins NAMBLA”

Headless Unicorn Guy

If Chantry is convicted we can thank retired pastor Dan Rydberg because he, unlike the three men on the ARBCA investigative committee, took his job seriously, understood his legal responsibilities as a mandatory reporter of abuse and had the intestinal fortitude to carry out his duty.

Has he been PUNISHED for it yet?

Mark

It appears to me that Sears’s case hinges completely on challenging the memory of the victims. He’s going to call in experts that say that their memories of the events were garbled and that in the intervening time the reality of what happened has been (presumably) exaggerated and has taken on.

So, the clarity of the victims’ accounts here is not playing well to the defense’s game. I had an abusive incident that was life changing, and while I remember the circumstances surrounding it, I couldn’t have told you the date (even the year) or the time without trying to correlate it with other evidence. It’s not as if, when I was eight or nine years old, I could say, on November 11th at 8PM, this happened. But… the defense is going to try and sow doubt into the jury. If they can’t even remember ____ then how do you know that ____ is true? Which is why I think there is going to be an excessive focus on trivia. What color was the room? What was he wearing? What did the paddle look like? How many times did he hit you? Then, the defense is going to somehow march out “facts” that question the victims’ accounts. Well, the room was green, not blue, and he didn’t own a tweed sportscoat, and, in fact, the paddle was varnished, not coated in poly.

I think the other game, and I don’t understand how this is a valid legal theory, is to complain that the intervening time, and the inaction of the authorities is somehow reason to acquit. Maybe he’s a real nice guy now. Maybe he’s ruffling the wrong feathers and they pulled his sordid past out to shut him up. Maybe the parents and pastors and elders who were involved waited until the statute of limitations ran out to report him because they didn’t want to go to jail. While all this may be true, I still don’t see how it undoes what crimes he committed.

Aaron V.

Thank you for your work on this, Todd. It’s heartbreaking/enraging just to read the testimony from the victims and to consider the emotional and spiritual harm done to them. I can’t imagine how much harder it is to document first-hand. Be encouraged, though. Ripping the cover off of rot like this is the only way to bring about substantive change in our churches. Light is the only medicine for darkness.

You and your team are a blessing to me (and many others). Keep up the good work!

-Aaron

Marsha

Sounds to me like Sears doesn’t have a good case and he knows it, so he resorts to time wasting tactics to give the illusion that he is being thorough when in reality he is just wasting time asking stupid questions to keep the witnesses off topics that hurt his non-existent case for innocence.

I really wish this three man committee and other ARBCA pastors who knew what Chantry did and did not report it could all be taken to the woodshed over this.