BRUNSWICK | A Glynn County judge ruled Friday enough evidence exists against controversial preacher and political activist Kenneth Adkins for a grand jury to consider his indictment on child molestation charges.
Chief Magistrate Timothy Barton found Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent James Feller Jr.’s testimony contained probable cause for prosecutors to ask a grand jury to indict Adkins on two counts of child molestation, one of them aggravated.
The victim, identified only by the initials A.J., attended two of Adkins’ churches, First Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist and Greater Dimensions, in late 2009 and early 2010, where “Adkins began to mentor, groom, A.J. as a junior deacon of the church” when the now adult Army soldier was 15, Feller testified.
Feller said Adkins became a father figure to A.J. and bought minutes for him on his cell phone so they could communicate. Adkins also picked A.J. up at Glynn Academy where he was a freshman and bought him clothes, the agent testified.
A.J had a 15-year-old girlfriend, who was identified as T.V., at the time, Feller testified.
Adkins then left First Jordan Grove to form Greater Dimensions. A.J. was among the church members who followed him, Feller said.
When Adkins asked A.J. if he and T.V. were having sex, A.J. acknowledged they were, Feller told the court.
“[Adkins] said to make sure you’re doing it right, correctly, maybe I should watch,’’ Feller said.
A.J. agreed and the young couple had sex on a couch in Adkins’ office at Greater Dimensions when it was located on G Street as Adkins sat close by rubbing his crotch through his pants, Feller said.
Adkins later had both teenagers perform oral sex on him, including in early in January 2010 when A.J. had his girlfriend give Adkins oral sex as a 50th birthday present, Feller testified.
Feller’s testimony came from two other investigations.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division initiated the first in April after A.J. spoke with Army sexual assault counselors. The Army turned its findings over the Brunswick Police Department which in turn handed over its case to the GBI in early August at the request of the District Attorney’s office, Feller said.
A.J. told investigators of other sexual encounters with Adkins including with another girlfriend, identified as 18-year-old J.C., who had sex with Adkins, Feller said.
A.J. also said he had sex with Adkins when he was home from the Army and that Adkins justified it by saying, “This is not gay. We’re just being freaky,’’ Feller testified.
Also, prosecutors introduced photos of an African-American penis that was sent to A.J. through the Adkins Public Relations email.
“I may or may not have sent those photographs, but that does look like my penis,’’ Feller testified Adkins told investigators.
During that interview, Adkins denied any of the sexual activity as did T.V., but T.V. now lives with Adkins and his wife, Feller told the court.
The 18-year-old J.C. also corroborated A.J.’s accounts of the sexual activity with Adkins, Feller said.
During cross-examination, Adkins’ lawyer, Kevin Gough, asked if A.J. mentioned that he loaned Adkins and Greater Dimensions a large sum that was never repaid.
Also, he asked Feller if A.J. acknowledged that he was engaged to another man and asked Adkins and the church to bless that relationship.
Feller testified A.J. had been in a mental institution undergoing counseling for depression and post traumatic stress disorder.
“He said it was a combination of what he went through with Adkins and finding his grandfather dead on the floor,’’ Feller said.
Feller did not budge from his testimony that Adkins had a relationship with A.J. when he was 15, and Adkins acknowledged it himself.
“He was like a godson to him,’’ Feller said.
Assistant District Attorney Katie Gropper, who prosecutes many child molestation cases in the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, made a motion to have the case bound over for grand jury action.
Gough argued there was not enough evidence. “What we have is a 6-year-old uncorroborated allegation,’’ he said.
He asserted A.J. accused Adkins only after Adkins couldn’t repay the loan and after Adkins and the church refused to bless A.J.’s gay marriage.
“Mr. Adkins is being held on charges not corroborated by probable cause while they go out and try to find some,’’ Gough told Barton.
Barton ruled, however, there was evidence of a relationship between Adkins and a minor boy and, as for A.J.’s treatment in a mental hospital, there was testimony it was related to that relationship. He ordered the case bound over to a Glynn County grand jury.
After the hearing, Gough, a former assistant DA, said he would have never brought the case. “They don’t have a case,’’ he said. “Mr. Adkins has been accused by a very troubled young man who has an axe to grind.”
Adkins will appear before a Superior Court judge Sept. 23 for a bail hearing, nearly a month after his Aug. 26 arrest.
Adkins has been a controversial figure in politics in Jacksonville and Glynn County. He worked in a number of Republican campaigns in Glynn County most recently providing advice in a County Commission race in which his client, Peter Murphy, defeated incumbent Dale Provenzano for a St. Simons Island seat. Adkins admitted lying when he said that state Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons, had endorsed Murphy on election day.
After the mass shooting in June at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, Adkins tweeted “been through so much with these Jacksonville homosexuals that I don’t see none of them as victims. I see them as getting what they deserve.”
He said later the tweet did not refer to those gunned down at Pulse but was directed specifically to a Jacksonville group “that has made my life a living hell.”
While serving on a community discussion panel, Adkins helped lead an effort to stop the extension of human rights protection to gays in Jacksonville.