By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
By Angelica Leicht
By Jeff Balke
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Ben DuBose
While that may be, it would be hard for UPCI officials to plead ignorance once Klem was indicted in December 2006.
According to the UPCI's bylaws, all complaints against a pastor must first be investigated by the district before the headquarters can get involved. Complaints must be submitted in writing, signed by at least two accusers, and must state the nature, place and date of the offense. Insufficient complaints are kicked back to the complaining parties, who must submit another draft.
If this process is not followed — if, for example, there is only a verbal complaint — the district cannot open an investigation. Without evidence of a proper complaint, no UPCI officials can open an investigation. And if Texas District Superintendent Danny Russo says the district isn't interested in New Life Tabernacle, there is nothing that can be done at the national level.
General Superintendent Ken Haney politely explained this after he popped into his Tampa Marriott hotel room for a lunch break between board meetings.
"I'm vaguely familiar with that," Haney says of the rift at New Life. Unfortunately, the UPCI's bylaws prevent him from attaining knowledge beyond the level of "vaguely." His hands are tied.
"Was there a complaint properly filed?" he asks, later adding, "It is my opinion...that perhaps a complaint was not properly filed. If it is properly filed, of necessity, they have to make an investigation."
And what if a complaint is properly filed, but there's a conflict of interest between the district superintendent and the minister in question, and an investigation is never opened? Does the whole thing evaporate?
Haney assured the Press that it wouldn't.
"There's too many voices," he said. "In other words, there's too many other churches in that area with pastors that would lend themselves to complaining about it and something would have to be done."
Not satisfied with the bold proclamation that "something would have to be done," Haney added that "things will be addressed."
Then Haney had to go. He had to make another board meeting.
"I sat down these girls, and the consensus was, they wanted to get on with their lives. They wanted to plead this case and get on with their lives."
— Jefferson County prosecutor Waylon Thompson
"Two-thousand dollars per [count]? People get more for that on DWIs."
— Lisa Treadway, victim's mother
It's not clear who was for the plea bargain and who wasn't.
Thompson says he was ready for trial all along, but when the idea for the plea surfaced, he brought it to the families and they were all on board.
"If they had at any point said, 'No, we think we want to go ahead and roll the dice on this,' then we'd have done that," Thompson says. "That's what we do. We don't do anything designed to be charitable to a defendant by any means."
He says he thoroughly explained the conditions of the plea bargain and the risks of a trial. He would have to conduct three separate trials, one for each girl. And for some reason, instead of leading off with Ashlyn, who endured seven years of torment, Thompson planned to lead with Ashlee, who was touched on one occasion.
He wouldn't know until the trials started what information, if any, he could include about the other girls. There were no witnesses. Acquittal or probation were definite risks of trial.
Lisa Treadway says that, since she and her daughter were now in Louisiana, she left the decision up to the other girls, her ex-husband Leslie and his first wife, Rilea.
"They've had to eat, sleep and drink this thing right in their face in Beaumont," she says. "I had pulled myself away from it."
According to Leslie and Rilea, Thompson told them from the beginning that all three girls could be tried together. It wasn't until the last minute, they say, that Thompson sprung the plea bargain on them and steered them in that direction.
Ashlee and Brea appear to have been satisfied with the plea bargain, although Ashlee isn't exactly sure what the plea bargain was. ("I don't really understand what he got," she says).
Randee had no say, because her case was in Harris County. But Thompson allowed Tina and Randee to be there through the whole process — they were all like family.
Randee says she would have been okay with a similar plea bargain in Houston.
"This is my senior year," she says. "I don't want to have to be pulled out of school for this stuff. I want my life back."
She's doing much better now. She's not cutting herself anymore. She's not around Klem anymore. And because her mom was constantly talking about the case and upsetting Randee, she's not living with her mom anymore. She's over at her father's, in a more mellow environment.
The ultimate call for the plea bargain seemed to lie with Ashlyn, who bit her tongue and left it up to her sister and stepsister. They were younger, and they hadn't endured what she'd had to. If they wanted to drop everything and move on, Ashlyn would respect that. She already felt bad enough for not defending her sisters in the first place.