“In a matter of an hour, a jury of three men and nine women found Kenneth Adkins guilty Monday of eight child molestation-related charges stemming from his sexual relationship with a teenage girl and boy at his church seven years ago.
The controversial, anti-gay pastor showed no emotion as the verdict was read. He will be sentenced April 25. Georgia has strict mandatory minimum sentencing laws; and because Adkins, 57, has a prior record, there’s a possibility he will never again be a free man.
Adkins’ attorney said once his client is sentenced, he’ll file paperwork for a new trial. Kevin Gough maintains the state deliberately withheld pertinent evidence that could have called into question the mental stability of Adkins’ accuser.
That accuser’s mother left the courtroom Monday in tears. Though not wishing to make a formal statement, she expressed her relief that the trial was over and that in the end her son was believed.
Katie Gropper, the assistant district attorney who tried the case, said all the victim ever wanted was to be believed. The young man, a specialist in the Army stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, came forward a year ago and told the military about his past life with his girlfriend and Adkins.
He admitted offering up his girlfriend sexually to Adkins seven years ago, when he and the girl were 15 and Adkins was 50.
He said the sex was never forced, and that Adkins had been a good man to him, providing him with money and support. But he also said he didn’t want Adkins to be able to do the same with other underage youth. The age of consent in Georgia is 16.
“He just wanted some validation,” Gropper told the jury during her closing arguments. “All this … is for somebody to believe him.”
The state claimed Adkinis was grooming the two teens — youths he was supposed to be mentoring — to have sexual intercourse in front of him.
Five of the charges he’s guilty of relate to the female, who denied anything of the sort happened. She lived with Adkins and his wife until about a month after Adkins’ arrest.
“She’s in his clutches,” Gropper said. “What he has done to that girl is not only criminal, it is deplorable.”
The male accuser told the jury last week that Adkins watched them have sex so many times that he lost track. He said the sex occurred in the church office, at the beach and in Adkins’ car.
The male, according to testimony presented during the trial, initially told an Army investigator that his girlfriend was 16 and he was 15 when the activity first began. On the witness stand, the young man said his then-girlfriend was 15.
Throughout the trial Adkins’ attorney tried to weaken the state’s case by questioning the timeframe and saying the victims were of age.
“Inspite of being gross, disgusting or vile, it is not a crime,” said Gough.
Gough also questioned the motives of the male accuser.
A few years ago the male took out a several-thousand-dollar loan for Adkins and Adkins never paid it back in full. Adkins also had power of attorney over the male’s money and the male testified last week that when checking out at the commissary, he learned his account had been drained.
“The most most obvious motive here, and it is hard to overlook, is money. Money. Money. Money,” said Gough.
Gough also suggested the male victim could be a narcissist or perhaps a sociopath.
“Someone who can look you in the face and lie,” Gough said.
He also suggested the man, who came forward with the allegations just months before he married another man, could have been getting back at Adkins because of Adkins’ vitriol about gays, gay marriage and transgender issues.
The state on the other hand, said it was Adkins who was motivated by sex, money and control. Gropper told the jury that Adkins did not control their decision.
“Quite frankly I’m surprised with the verdict,” Adkins said in a phone call from jail less than two hours after the verdict. Despite evidence suggesting Adkins did have some sort of sexual relationships with the male and female, Adkins in his phone call continued to say he never had sex with them.
When asked about photos and electronic messages he sent, he said, “Those were bad decisions. I cannot justify any of that.”
Gough too was stunned by the verdict and how quickly the jury came to the unanimous decision. “You never know what 12 people are going to do,” he said.
Adkins is a former drug addict who reinvented himself in Jacksonville when he opened up a public relations firm. Some in North Florida looked to him to help them gain black votes. Adkins was fairly successful.
In multiple telephone interviews leading up to his trial, Adkins said he felt a calling to be a preacher and that’s when he landed in Southeast Georgia.
It was here that he made enemies for failing to make good on financial promises; for his hard-line Republican stances that tended to put him out of step with other black people; and for seeming inflammatory no matter the subject.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry tapped Adkins for a panel discussion regarding the possibility of expanding the city’s human rights ordinance to include gays, lesbians and transgender people.
Adkins told the Times-Union he was picked by multiple pastors to trumpet their anti-gay, anti-expansion stance. He said he was paid for efforts that included posting lewd and inflammatory caricatures of former mayor Tommy Hazouri in a restroom.”