Pastors Anthony and Harriet Jinwright will be back in federal court this morning for Day 2 of their sentencing hearing. U.S. District Court Judge Frank Whitney has set an 8:30 a.m. start time.
Before adjourning Wednesday around 8 p.m., Whitney said today’s session would last only about three hours. If lawyers for the two sides cannot wrap up their presentations, he said, the hearing might stretch into Friday… or even Monday.
In Wednesday’s afternoon session, lawyers representing the Jinwrights called six character witnesses. Former N.C. State Sen. Robert Pittenger, a Mecklenburg Republican, had testified on behalf of Anthony Jinwright earlier in the day.
Among the afternoon witnesses was Peter Baloyi, a preacher who traveled from South Africa. Baloyi told the judge how, during a trip to South Africa, the Jinwrights visited orphanages, helped school children and mentored local ministers.
“They helped us spiritually, they helped us socially, and they helped us financially,” he said.
Phyllis Williams, a member of Greater Salem Church for about 20 years, described herself as a single mother with two sons, ages 20 and 23. One recently returned from an Army tour in Afghanistan, she said.
Williams told Whitney that the Jinwrights were like surrogate parents to her family, paying more than $6,000 so that one of her sons could attend college. And after the son who served in Afghanistan shipped off, she said, he requested, should he be killed, that an American Flag be delivered to Harriet Jinwright as well as to his mother.
Blease Turner, vice chair of Greater Salem’s board of directors, also praised the Jinwrights. He said he joined the west Charlotte church in April, just before the couple went to trial facing charges of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion.
The Jinwrights were acquitted of fraud charges but convicted on multiple counts of conspiracy and tax evasion. Anthony Jinwright, 54, faces as maximum sentence of 53 years in prison; Harriet Jinwright, 51, faces 20-year maximum.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Turner called Anthony Jinwright “a great man of faith and a great man of God.”
After the Jinwrights’ conviction, he said, a federal probation officer came to the church to notify the congregation of its legal rights, including the right to seek restitution for any money the Jinwrights may have improperly received.
The congregation voted unanimously against it, he said.
“We certainly are no victims,” Turner told the judge. “In fact, we applaud the precious men and women of God.”
Turner invited other Greater Salem members in the courtroom to dispute the veracity of what he had said. None did.
Under cross-examination, Turner said he was unaware that one of the first payments made from a $5 million loan the church received from a California credit union was a $50,000 bonus paid to Anthony Jinwright. (Greater Salem last month filed for bankruptcy protection after defaulting on the loan and having the credit union move to foreclose on the church and related properties.)
Turner also said many members had left Greater Salem and that the church struggled financially.
The final witness on Wednesday was a former IRS agent named Paul Parker, who was kept on the witness stand for more than three hours and disputed the government’s claim that the Jinwrights owe $1.4 million in back taxes.
Parker said that, based on his own examination of the Jinwrights’ financial records, the tally is closer to $43,000.
Government lawyers challenged Parker’s figures, questioning his interpretation of tax law and whether he had examined all relevant records and all relevant years.
At one point Parker said he did not trust the government’s figures.
His testimony will resume today.
Got news to share with Qcity readers? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up for our weekly email newsletter below.