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Catawba Prosecutors No Longer On The Job

Two prosecutors are gone from the Catawba County District Attorney’s office following allegations that they derailed criminal investigations into abuse by leaders of a church they attend.

In announcing the shakeup, District Attorney David Learner says he “cannot allow the integrity of the office to be called into question.”

The move comes after the Associated Press reported that nine former members of a church in Spindale called “Word of Faith Fellowship” said that assistant prosecutors Frank Webster and Chris Back helped derail a social services investigation into child abuse in 2015. They also said Whaley warned congregants to lie to investigators about abuse incidents.

In addition, the ex-members said that Webster and Back provided legal advice and participated in a mock trial of four church members charged with harassing a former church member. Webster is the son-in-law of Word of Faith’s leader, Jane Whaley.

Learner has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the allegations.

The AP’s reporting has revealed physical and emotional abuse inside the church. Former member have said congregants were punched, choked, and thrown through walls. They said purpose of the violence was to purify sinners.

Word of Faith has 750 members in North Carolina, and 2000 members at churches in Brazil and Ghana.

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.