After a year of hearings, continuances and court appearances, the trial of Malcolm Fraser began April 3 in King County Superior Court in Kent before Judge Lori K. Smith.
Fraser, a 40-year-old pastor with Sound Doctrine church in Enumclaw, has been charged by the King County Prosecutor with two counts of rape of a child in the first degree and two counts of child molestation in the first degree.
The charges allege the incidents occurred between Jan. 12, 2005, and May 31, 2006, involving a girl who was about 11 years old at the time.
The charges were filed in March 2012 and Fraser entered a plea of not guilty on April 5, 2012.
Fraser is represented by Ann Carey of the Seattle firm Carey & Lillevik and the King County deputy prosecuting attorney on the case is Jason Simmons.
The first week of testimony wrapped up Thursday and will resume May 6.
The jury of 12, with two alternates, is made up of four women and 10 men who were chosen from a pool of more than 300.
Attorneys outlined their cases to the jury during opening statements in courtroom 4C at the Kent Regional Justice Center April 18.
Simmons and Carey provided the jury with detailed, and at times graphic, arguments in a case that is expected to last until the end of May.
Following the openings the judge stated opening arguments are “not evidence” and only testimony during the trial is considered evidence, which is why jurors were not allowed to take notes during opening arguments.
Simmons’ opening laid out the details of the state’s case. Fraser is accused of committing the crimes when he and his wife were living with the girl’s family in Enumclaw.
According to the prosecutor’s case, Fraser repeatedly raped and molested the girl over a period of several months. The girl told a counselor in early March 2012 when she was 17 years old. The prosecutor said the girl had not told her parents of the alleged incidents, but had disclosed details to a younger sister years earlier.
Simmons described the details of the alleged assaults to the jury. He stated Fraser told the girl if she told anyone about the assaults she and her mother “would go to hell.”
The prosecutor said Fraser and Timothy Williams, who was leading Sound Doctrine at that time, told the family to put their children through a manners “boot camp.” Simmons said the girl would “be punished if she did not fold a napkin correctly.” He stated the children were not to speak unless spoken to and were to stand at attention when a man entered the home.
According to Simmons the parents were abiding by the church’s teachings and the girl was also following its rules.
“So when the defendant told her ‘you are going to burn in hell,’” Simmons said, “in this 11-year-old girl’s reality she believed it. The defendant, as associate pastor, when he said no one is going to believe you, she believed him because of the environment she was in.”
Simmons said because of the church’s rules and Fraser telling the mother, “You are not fit to raise your own children” the family left Sound Doctrine in 2006.
The prosecutor wrapped up his statement stating, “This trial simply asks you to hold him accountable for what he has done and find him guilty.”
Carey said in her opening, “Why now? Why are we here now?”
The defense Carey laid out for the jury attacks the state’s case against her client on multiple fronts.
According to Carey, there is no evidence of Fraser of committing the crimes. She said there is “no support, no physical evidence and no medical evidence.”
The defense questions and challenges the motives of the family members and those who are against Sound Doctrine.
She noted there is a group of people who left Sound Doctrine, who dislike the group, and were gathering at the family’s home prior to charges being filed.
Carey spent considerable time focusing on Athena Dean. She described Dean later in the proceedings as a “seminal figure” in the trial. Carey said Dean left the church in November 2011 and became friends with the girl’s mother.
“As you all know, a common enemy makes fast friends,” Carey said.
The defense provided color-coded charts with the names of all the past and former church members to help keep all the people straight.
The attorney said since coming to Enumclaw in 1999, “Sound Doctrine Church has been widely praised and widely criticized. Many people call it a cult.”
Carey said the defense evidence will neither “defend or condemn the church or its theology…. The issue in this case is not whether you would join the Sound Doctrine Church or whether or not you believe their doctrine is sound. The issue is whether or not the government has met its legal obligation.”
She stated the defense would show Fraser was not living in the house at the time of the alleged attacks.
Carey said the defense would provide evidence the police investigation was biased against the church and the interview of the alleged victim was not properly conducted.
The defense attorney also said the defense would provide evidence that Fraser suffers from a medical condition that would prevent him from committing the crime.
“This is tough,” Carey said in closing. “You (will) hear tough evidence. Don’t let your critical thinking be obstructed by the nature of the allegations. Keep an open mind.”
The first days of testimony presented by the state centered on establishing the timeline of Fraser’s residence in the family’s home.
Tami Dunn was on the stand Tuesday and Wednesday. She had lived in a residence next door to the family and testified Fraser lived in the family’s home for at least six months.
“I thought it was odd so many adults (were) living there,” Dunn said.
During cross examination, Carey tried to establish Dunn did not give specific dates when Fraser lived there.
The defense spent time asking Dunn about her “bad bunnies” that kept getting loose. Establishing the time of the rabbits appeared to be an attempt to establish a timeline when Fraser was or was not living at the family home.
The next witness was Det. Grant McCall of the Enumclaw Police Department, who spent Wednesday and Thursday on the stand. The direct examination and cross from defense was completed and the case is in the midst of redirect, which will resume Monday.
Simmons said he expects the state’s case to last through the week.
One of the issues the defense hoped to score with concerned emails McCall sent to both Dean and Fraser’s mother in Scotland. Fraser came to this country from Scotland in 2001.
In one of the emails to the mother, McCall wrote the church was “completely without the gospel of our lord and savior Jesus Christ” and “the fruit exhibited by Malcolm’s group is evil and twisted.”
The defense attempted to show McCall was biased against the church and it influenced his interview of the girl.
Under both direct and cross examination, McCall said part of the reason for his responses in the emails was to establish a rapport for investigation purposes.
“If I tell her (Fraser’s mother) in some way I agree with her about the church she might open up to me,” McCall said.
Carey questioned McCall about emails to Dean and Fraser’s mother that were not provided to the attorney until September when defense requested them.
McCall said in his opinion the emails did not provide any “evidentiary value” to the case, which is why he did not send them to the prosecution or defense.
The defense also asked McCall about a link between Dean and the case. Carey spent considerable time asking McCall about his relationship with Dean and her involvement in the case.
McCall said he knew Dean and others disliked Sound Doctrine.
“Some people who have left believe it is a cult,” McCall said.
Carey asked him if Dean took an “active role in the case.”
McCall said she did not.
“In my opinion she (Dean) didn’t have any information about the particulars in this case,” McCall said.
Carey asked the detective if he developed an alternative explanation about the case. The detective said he did not because there has to be “substance for us to follow up.”
The split among Sound Doctrine members has been evident on Internet sites and social media posts. Dean and others have made no secret of their feelings about group.
Timothy Williams, when reached by phone in 2012, directed all questions to the Sound Doctrine website, Hard Truth. The site attacks the credibility of Dean and the girl’s family.
Williams publishes a website, enumclaw.com, and The Discerning Times, that presents their views of the case.