|Man Faces up to 60 Years for Sex Abuse
The 61-Year-Old Internet Evangelist Is Convicted of Molesting a Girl for Years. He Faces Additional Trials
By Tanya PeRez-Brennan
February 10, 2006
DeLAND -- The courtroom remained in hushed silence Thursday except for the sounds of one woman's tears of relief as she heard the guilty verdict handed down to the man who had sexually molested her for years.
Charles Michael Balfe, 61, known as an Internet evangelist, was found guilty on both counts of sexual battery. The DeLand resident could face up to 60 years in prison, 30 years on each count, said Linda Pruitt, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office.
Two other accusers say that as children they endured years of sexual abuse and physical beatings by Balfe in the late 1990s. Balfe will face two additional trials on those cases, according to officials. Two women also came forward and said they were sexually abused by him during the 1970s, but he will not face charges for those acts, according to the State Attorney's Office.
Before his arrest in April, Balfe ran a religious Web site as "a meeting place for fellowship with other Jesus Believers." He was also a regular at First Christian Church of DeLand. The three victims first came forward in March after one boy saw coverage of pop star Michael Jackson's trial and realized he had been abused.
Assistant State Attorney Tammy Jaques said she was pleased with the verdict because the jury was able to see how Balfe used religion to justify his acts.
"The Bible is not a bad thing, but used the way Charles Balfe used it, it was a bad thing," she said. "I do believe that he would not have stopped were it not for this guilty verdict."
During testimony, a 21-year-old woman described the harsh disciplinary measures imposed by Balfe when she was a teenager. She pointed to a handful of thick, cylindrical wooden rods presented as evidence.
"These are the rods that he beat us with," she said.
During closing arguments, Jaques told the jury that Balfe had used the Bible to legitimize his acts. She held up a leather-bound Bible that had highlighted passages and paper-clipped pages.
"This was the tool he used to make her believe that this was right, that this was her duty," Jaques said.
The defense argued that the young woman's testimony was not credible and that she had conspired with the other victims to make up a story of sexual abuse.
"What was missing from the witness stand was the attitude of someone who was molested," Jay Crocker, Balfe's attorney, told the jury. "One would expect some tears."
After the guilty verdict, Crocker said he was disappointed with the decision and that he would appeal. Balfe will be sentenced at a later date.
Tanya Perez-Brennan can be reached at email@example.com or 386-851-7923.
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