Prosecutor: Minister ‘directed’ beating of gay congregant

This photo taken May 19, 2017, shows Brooke Covington, a member of the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindle, N.C., leaving a hearing at Rutherford County Courthouse in Rutherfordton, N.C. Covington and other church members are accused of kidnapping and assaulting Matthew Fenner, a former church member, because he is gay. Covington, 58, has pleaded innocent to one count each of kidnapping and assault. If convicted, she faces up to two years in prison. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

(AP) — A prosecutor says a North Carolina minister “directed and participated in” the beating of church member who says the assault was meant to expel his “homosexual demons.”

Prosecutor Garland Byers gave an opening statement Thursday in the trial of Brooke Covington, a 58-year-old minister at Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina.

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Covington is the first of five church members to face trial. They will be tried separately.

Covington is charged with kidnapping and assaulting former church member Matthew Fenner. If convicted, she faces up to two years in prison.

Her lawyer, David Teddy, disputes the allegations.

The 23-year-old Fenner says he was slapped, choked and screamed at for two hours in January 2013 as members tried to expel his “homosexual demons.”