After being in recess on Friday, court resumes today in the federal fraud and tax evasion trial of pastors Anthony and Harriet Jinwright.
On Thursday, prosecutors called 13 witnesses to the stand before lunch. Most were called as representatives of other churches that, at some point, had issued checks to the Jinwrights.
The Rev. John A. McCullough, pastor of Friendship Christian Church (formerly Friendship Baptist) in Gastonia, was the first to take the stand. He had testified briefly three days earlier and was called back Thursday.
In his earlier testimony:
McCullough said he has been pastor at Friendship Christian for 21 years but was “born and raised in Greater Salem Church,” where the Jinwrights pastor.
He described the Jinwrights as “spiritual parents.”
While at Greater Salem, he said, he was president of the young adult choir, a trustee trainee and an administrative assistant to Anthony Jinwright for nearly a year. The only reason he left the Jinwrights’ church, he said, was to preach at Friendship.
(Prosecutors said they had to twice subpoena records from McCullough’s church. The second subpoena, they said, was issued about a week before his testimony.)
In response to that subpoena, McCullough produced at least two Form 1099s indicating payments to Anthony Jinwright – one totaling $15,500 in 2006 and another totaling $8,523 in 2007. He also produced a 1099 for Harriet Jinwright showing total payments of $1,500 in 2003.
Most of the related checks shown by prosecutors were dated in April of each year, and McCullough said the checks covered speaking engagements. Anthony Jinwright regularly speaks at McCullough’s pastoral anniversary, he testified.
Other checks were dated in February. Those checks, McCullough said, were given to the Jinwrights in recognition of the Jinwrights’ pastoral anniversary. In February 2001, evidence showed, McCullough’s church gave $2,000 to Anthony Jinwright, $500 to Harriet and $100 to their daughter, Anthonae Jinwright.
In 2007, McCullough’s church gave Anthony Jinwright a check for $5,000. “Happy Anniversary” was written in the memo field. In 2006, McCullough’s church wrote a check to Anthony Jinwright for $10,000.
“It’s a love gift,” McCullough said of the checks.
McCullough testified that he “wasn’t aware” that his secretary issued 1099s for those payments and that he “didn’t agree” that 1099s were appropriate.
Back on the stand Thursday:
McCullough said his church’s financial advisors had instructed church officials to issue 1099s to the Jinwrights. But he said he believed that honorariums, or “love gifts,” should be “subject to interpretation” when it comes to taxation.
Whether such payments were legally gifts or income is important in the Jinwright trial. The government alleges that the couple failed to report about $1.8 million in taxable income between 2001 and 2007. During that time, their indictments allege, the Jinwrights received more than $5.3 million in payments and reimbursements from Greater Salem, not including gifts and cash given to them by church members.
Under cross-examination, defense attorney Fred Williams asked McCullough whether Anthony Jinwright ever asked his church to sign a contract before he spoke or whether he ever mailed invoices requesting payment.
McCullough said he did not.
Williams: “Why were you and the other members giving gifts to Anthony Jinwright?”
McCullough: “We believe that whatever you sow into a leader’s life, there are added blessings added to your life.”
Williams asked if there were other reasons people gave gifts to the Jinwright.
“It’s for his prosperity,” McCullough said. “It’s realizing you can also be blessed as a result.”
Prosecutor Brown countered: “At the end of the day, the IRS calls all of those gifts income.”
McCullough: “I didn’t know that.”
McCullough said his understanding of when and why to issue a 1099 “seems to be very cloudy.” He said that he asked several financial advisors about 1099s and was given several different answers.
At that point, Judge Frank Whitney stepped in: “Who told you you didn’t have to issue a 1099?”
McCullough wasn’t able to offer a name and was dismissed from his subpoena.
Glenn Gerald, pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church in Charlotte, also testified Thursday about money paid to the Jinwrights. He called Anthony Jinwright his “spiritual father” and Harriet Jinwright his “spiritual mother.”
During cross examination, defense attorney Williams asked Gerald whether he, as pastor, is able to direct church funds as he sees fit. Gerald said that he and a board of trustees direct the church’s money, but that he, as pastor, does have significant influence.
Under cross-examination, prosecutor Craig Randall countered: “You can’t simply spend the church’s money in any way you see fit, can you?”
Gerald: “No, sir.”
Randall: “Why not?”
Gerald: “Because it’s not my money.”
With that, Gerald was released from his subpoena.
With few exceptions, most of the churches represented Thursday issued 1099s to the Jinwright after speaking engagements. And while words like “honorarium,” “love offering,” and “love gift” were frequently used, there was no consensus on what the terms mean. Some church representatives said money was paid for services rendered; others testified that they intended the payments to be gifts, not income.
One church’s representative testified that their accountant didn’t issue at 1099 because Anthony Jinwright submitted a W-9 form listing his for-profit company, Anthony L. Jinwright Ministries Inc., as the payee. (1099s are not issued for payments to companies.)
More than one witness has testified during the trial that it was customary for Greater Salem employees to mail a Form W-9 along with a letter of acceptance in advance of Anthony Jinwright’s speaking engagements.
All of the representatives from the various churches said they would not have paid the Jinwrights had the couple not spoken at their churches. They also testified that the Jinwrights did not request a specific dollar amount, nor did they invoice their churches seeking payment.
However, the acceptance letter that Greater Salem sent to host churches instructed: “Bishop Jinwright does not require a specific honorarium. However, we believe that a ministry of your caliber will be fair. Honorariums should be made payable to Anthony L. Jinwright.”
An Interesting Aside:
During testimony by Virginia Woodruff of Marvin AME Zion Church, some Jinwright supporters were making noise and laughing. A marshal in the courtroom ordered one disrupter to leave. The judge seemed to make a special point of thanking Woodruff for her testimony.