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Fraser found guilty, sentenced to 3 years

A magistrate yesterday found Bishop Earl Randolph Fraser guilty of having a sexual relationship with a teenage girl in his congregation who had come to him for counseling.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Carolita Bethell sentenced Fraser, who recently celebrated his 16th pastoral anniversary as the head of Pilgrim Full Baptist Temple, to three years in prison.  With time off for good behavior, Fraser will serve two years.

Fraser and his wife, Jacqueline, appeared stunned at the verdict, but they put on a stoic front outside the courtroom where a large crowd of onlookers applauded the verdict.

Fraser, 54, of Eastwood Estates, stared blankly as officers escorted him to a holding cell at the Central Police Station with his hands cuffed behind his back.

His wife, who gasped as he was led from the courtroom, praised God as she left the Bank Lane courtroom surrounded by relatives and congregants.  Just a few hours earlier, Fraser, his wife, and their small entourage had smiles on their faces when they arrived at court.

Fraser began the illicit affair with the 16-year-old girl shortly after their counseling sessions began in July 2005, the evidence revealed.  The sexual relationship ended in February 2006, the girl said.

According to the evidence, the troubled teen’s mother put her out of her home after hearing reports of misbehavior.  She moved in with her grandmother, who agreed to allow Fraser to counsel her.  Fraser was also supposed to counsel the accuser’s mother separately, but he never did.

In her testimony, Fraser’s accuser said that the bishop told her that no one would believe her and that he knew people in high places.

At the end of it all, Bethell said she found the accuser’s account “convincing.”  She added that the witness was “solid and truthful” when confronted by rigorous cross-examination.  In contrast, Bethell found the testimony of Fraser “untruthful.”

Mrs. Fraser clasped the hand of her brother-in-law John Forbes’ and whispered “Jesus, Jesus” when Bethell said she did not believe her husband’s denials of the affair.

The accuser said she and Fraser had sex on Mondays and Wednesdays on the floor of his office before services, and occasionally at his home when his wife was not there.  Police found Fraser’s semen on carpet swaths collected from the church office.

Under cross-examination by Franklyn Williams, the deputy director of public prosecutions, Fraser and his wife said that they had intercourse on the floor of the office when they stayed in the administration building during power outages at their home.

During his plea of mitigation, defense attorney Jairam Mangra said Fraser was a “respectable, prominent member of society” who until his conviction had a stellar character.

Bethell, who has a sentencing cap of five years, said she had no difficulty imposing the maximum sentence.  However, Bethell said she took into account that this was a retrial and Fraser had the case “hanging over his head since 2006.”

A magistrate in 2007 discharged the case against Fraser, but the appellate court ordered a new trial before another magistrate in 2008.

Bethell said Fraser breached the trust the girl’s grandmother had in him.  She said his conduct “must have been a terrible let down for members of your congregation.”

Mangra said he intended to appeal the decision and he asked the court to consider releasing Fraser on bail pending appeal.  Bethell said she would deal with the issue of bail once the documents were filed.

Police took Fraser to prison at lunchtime.

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