SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) - A jury has found a San Augustine woman not guilty of not properly executing a church deed.
Coffee was indicted on fraud charges back in 2012. The fraud charges date back to the summer of 2011, when Coffee and her cousin Betty Clark decided to re-organize the Gloryland Pentecostal Church, which sits on land their grandparents deeded to the church.
According to a previous East Texas News story, the relationship between Coffee and her cousin took a turn for the worse, and Clark left the church in December 2011. After Clark left the church, Coffee and other members continued with their plan to establish a new church. The charges against Coffee call into the question the legality of the steps that she took to do that.
During the second day the ongoing trial for the 74-year-old San Augustine grandmother who was charged with fraud in connection to allegations that she didn't properly execute a warranty deed, the pastor of Margie Coffee's church testified that he had misgivings before he took the job there because of the “lack of visibility” about where the church's funds were going.
During her testimony Monday, Clark said that she left the church because she didn't like the demanding ways of the interim pastor, Shawn Husband.
When Husband took the stand Tuesday morning, he told Ryan Deaton, Coffee's defense attorney, that Clark approached him in June of 2011 about preaching at her church. He added that that he was initially reluctant to take the position because he noticed underlying tension in the church's congregation.
Husband told the jury that he prayed about the decision and agreed to serve as an interim pastor.
As time progressed, Husband started noticing red flags.
"Many were reluctant to support the church financially, due to the lack of visibility of were the funds were going," Husband said.
At that time, the only person who had access to the church bank account was Clark, Husband told the jurors. He then stated that this was odd because most churches usually have at least two people assigned to a bank account.
The church then decided to hold a meeting and took a vote to add a second person to the church's bank account, Husband said. During this meeting, Clark and other members unanimously voted to add Coffee to the account. However, a week later, Clark called Husband and told him that she was quitting the church, and she would be handing the keys and bank info over to Coffee.
However, a new account could not be open because the church ID number was not included, Husband said. He told the jurors that he consulted with a lawyer because he didn't know how to move forward from that point.
The lawyer told Husband that rather than get into a long, drawn-out process with Clark, the church's best bet was move forward and completely re-structure under a new name.
Husband then testified that they got a tax ID number and would function as 501 C3 Corporation. They then changed the name and began the process.
However, during cross-examination prosecutor Kevin Dutton pointed out that this was illegal because current members were acting as trustees of the Gloryland Church, which they were never elected to do.
After the trial Coffee thanked her lawyer and the jury for paying close attention to the details.
"I was relieved," Coffee said. "Its been a long two and a half years dealing with this and we still have more to come. I'm just glad that this part is over."
Although Coffee was found not guilty, she still faces a civil lawsuit filed by Clark. Clark said hopefully justice will be served in this suit.