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Jury reaches verdict on case Sarasota bishop accused of sexually abusing children

Henry Lee Porter, Sr.
Posted at 5:27 PM, Jun 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 22:12:05-04

SARASOTA, Fla. — After 3 hours of deliberations, the jury found Henry Lee Porter Sr. guilty on two counts of sexual battery of a child under the age of 12. Porter Sr., the seventy-four-year-old former bishop of a Sarasota evangelical church, is on trial, accused of sexually abusing children from as far back as 1989.

Opening statements were made by state prosecutors Tuesday, accusing Porter of two counts of sexual battery of a child under the age of 12.

"Henry Lee Porter harnessed the word of God to sexually abuse children, that is what you're going to hear in this case. That’s what this case is about," said Ryan Felix, a state attorney.

RELATED: 72-year-old Sarasota bishop accused of sexually abusing children, young adults for 4 decades

The state said the jury will hear from at least two victims who were raised in the Westcoast Center for Human Development church where Porter preached.

But defense attorney Brent McIntosh opened by explaining that Porter was the real victim.

Henry Lee Porter, Sr.
Henry Lee Porter, Sr. sits with his attorneys in court.

"I will agree that this case has elements of manipulation in it. But the manipulation is not Henry Porter’s, the manipulation is coming from witnesses," said McIntosh.

The state started its case by calling 'victim one' as the first witness. The now 40-year-old man testified that he was groomed and sexually abused in multiple ways by Porter from the ages 11 to 21. He said much of it occurred in a private room in the church that only Porter had a key to open.

"Then we would put our clothes back on, we would always pray and then confess our faults to each other," said the victim.

Part of why the victim took the stand is because he said he feared it was still happening to other victims. However, the defense cautioned the jury to pay attention to the timeline of these decades-old accusations.

Henry Lee Porter Sr. could face life in prison.