Preacher Convicted of Sexual Crimes
Rev. Dennis Lamar Fields Jailed after Jury Finds Him Guilty of Abusing Boys
By Gary McElroy
February 4, 2006
A judge sent a south Mobile preacher to jail Friday just minutes after a Mobile jury found the pastor guilty of three counts of first-degree sex abuse involving young boys.
The Rev. Dennis Lamar Fields showed no visible reaction when the verdict was read before Mobile County Circuit Judge Charles Graddick after jurors -- seven women and five men -- had deliberated for two hours.
Up until the time of his trial, Fields had been free on $30,000 bond. That was revoked by the judge as soon as Fields was declared guilty. He is set to be sentenced March 9.
Fields, 52, went on trial Wednesday, charged with sodomy and sex abuse. In their verdict, jurors declared that the pastor's crimes, as alleged by a father and his son, describing sex offenses at Fields' hands nearly 20 years apart, did not constitute sodomy.
Under the law, sodomy is described as deviant sexual intercourse, such as oral or anal sex.
In Alabama, first-degree sex abuse is a felony, calling for penalties of between one and 10 years in prison.
Assistant District Attorney Steve Giardini said outside court that he will ask Graddick to impose 10-year sentences for each of the convictions, to be served consecutively, for a total of 30 years.
Giardini said Fields deserves the harshest punishment available because of the psychological and emotional damage he caused his victims and for breach of his authority as a spiritual leader.
A prosecution witness had testified that he, too, had been abused by Fields when the defendant was his pastor at Bethel Holiness Church in Irvington. That witness was not considered a victim in this case.
He told jurors that when he was 12 or 13, Fields allowed him to take the steering wheel of a car and that while he was driving, Fields fondled his genitals.
Fields also testified, at one point looking straight into jurors' eyes and denying the allegations.
His 11-year-old accuser testified that Fields had fondled him and ejaculated on him many times while they shared a bed together.
The child's crude drawings depicting some of the sex acts were shown to jurors.
Fields acknowledged that he had often slept with the young accuser and another male child about the same age, explaining that perhaps in his sleep he had unintentionally and inadvertently draped his hands across the boy's body.
Those in court supporting Fields and those supporting the victims were about equally divided during the trial. Most, if not all, of them were either current or one-time parishioners of the small church Fields has led for more than 20 years.
Although Fields accepted the verdict quietly, and stoically marched to a holding cell behind Graddick's bench, some of his supporters were not as composed.
Shortly after the verdict, as Giardini entered the courtroom gallery, a woman in a red dress said something to him, then appeared to lunge at the prosecutor. A female deputy standing nearby immediately grabbed her and restrained her against a courtroom wall.
The woman and a large entourage of Fields' supporters eventually left the courthouse under obvious emotional stress.
Giardini later said the woman told him he had better wish he's never accused of a crime.
According to the prosecutor, the woman was the mother of the defense witness who on Thursday testified that he was often around Fields' now-adult accuser and Fields when the sexual abuse supposedly took place.
During direct examination by defense attorney Dennis Knizley, that witness testified that he never saw Fields commit the alleged acts.
During cross-examination, however, Giardini showed the witness a handful of photos taken by Fields depicting the witness nude when he was 8 or 9 years old -- the same age as the father and son testified they had been when Fields abused them.
The witness reluctantly acknowledged that he vaguely remembered Fields taking the photos but stressed they were likely snapped as he stepped out of a shower.
According to the prosecutor, the same defense witness later cursed him and made veiled threats outside of court.
The now-adult victim had told jurors earlier in the trial that Fields also took dozens of Polaroid snapshots of him in the nude over a period of years, then one day burned the pictures in a backyard trash barrel, apologizing for what he had done and promising it would never happen again.
Fields denied ever taking such photos.
According to testimony this week, charges were filed against Fields in early 2005 after the adult victim, who had kept quiet all these years, learned that his son, now 11, had also been a victim of Fields' sexual abuse.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.