Tag: Westcoast Center for Human Development

Henry Lee Porter, Sr. Horowitz Law

Former Sarasota Bishop Henry Lee Porter Found Guilty on Two Counts of Sexual Battery of a Child Under 12

On June 21, 2022, Henry Lee Porter Sr., the former bishop of a Sarasota evangelical church, began his week-long trial after he was arrested in 2020 for sexually abusing multiple children from as far back as 1989. According to media reports, after a 3-hour deliberation in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court on June 24, the jury found Henry Lee Porter, Sr. guilty on two counts of sexual battery of a child under the age of 12. 

Porter, 74, faced four of his victims as they shared their experiences of the sexual abuse they endured that began when they were young boys. The state provided the jury with testimonies to show the viable pattern of preying on young boys portrayed by Porter. The first victim that spoke, now a 40-year-old man, testified that he was groomed and sexually abused in multiple ways by Porter from the ages of 11 to 21. He said much of it occurred in a private room in the church that only Porter had a key to open. The victim stated, “Then we would put our clothes back on, we would always pray, and then confess our faults to each other.”

The second victim, a now 49-year-old man, testified that he was abused by Henry Lee Porter since he was 15 years old. He said he eventually told Porter to stop the abuse 14 years after it had started when he was 29 years old. He left the church soon after.

Porter’s attorney stated that they were disappointed but respected the jury process. He also said that they planned on moving to appeal the outcome. Porter has not been sentenced yet, however, he could be facing a life sentence.

Porter was arrested in January 2020 by Sarasota Police Department after several victims came forward with allegations of being sexually abused by the minister. After Porter was arrested, a second victim came forward, telling police the abuse happened between April and November of 1990 when the victim was attending the Westcoast Center for Human Development school. Police stated that they feared there were going to be a lot more allegations to come. A total of 14 victims came forward, alleging that Porter, Sr., sexually abused them about 30 years ago. but was only charged with just two of them because the statute of limitations prevented police from pressing more criminal charges, according to media reports.

Sarasota detectives had conducted a string of criminal investigations dating back to 1990 in response to multiple victims telling investigators throughout the years that Porter forced oral and anal sex on them and forced them to reciprocate. Porter’s arrest report stated that previous investigations began in the 1990s and the early 2000s, but the statute of limitations and witnesses’ reluctance to testify were obstacles for criminal charges. The most recent investigation leading to Porter’s arrest was initiated in October 2019, when Sarasota police received notification of a Facebook video titled “Art of Manipulation — My survival of Molestation” from a user who said he was sexually abused as a child by a bishop at Westcoast Center for Human Development. 

According to court documents, the victim told detectives that his first memory of sexual abuse started when he was 11 years old after his parents went to a hospital out-of-state and continued until he was 21. The abuse involved “fondling, masturbation, oral and anal sex” with guidance from Porter. It often occurred in Porter’s inner office, in the Westcoast Center for Human Development. 

Police interviewed more than 20 similar “fact victims”, all boys ages 14 to young adults of various ages who provided statements outlining the abuse by Porter in various locations including on cross-country mission trips and on church-sponsored trips. Prior investigations revealed an anonymous letter that named 40 of Porter’s child sexual abuse victims. 

Porter founded the Westcoast Gospel Chorus and was pastor of the church he incorporated in 1971 for 45 years. He stepped down in June 2016 and his son, Henry Porter II, took his post. Porter was held without bail until his trial. Now Porter faces what could be a lifetime in jail. 

The role of pastors in the church is to support the spiritual needs of their parishioners. Education and often counseling and guidance in times of need are responsibilities with which they are entrusted. A trusted clergyman who sexually violates young children has no place working in the Church. Any ministry in which such a crime is committed must take responsibility for failing to properly screen potential clergy and protect its parishioners. 

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy. If you or a loved one was sexually abused, raped, or sexually molested by a priest or other clergy, contact our law firm at (888) 283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com for a free consultation.

 

Henry Lee Porter, Sr. - Horowitz Law

Sarasota Police Fear Dozens More Victims Were Sexually Abused by Bishop Henry Lee Porter

On Wednesday, January 8, 2020, Sarasota Police held a press conference on the arrest of the former bishop and founder of the Westcoast Center for Human Development, Henry Lee Porter, alerting the public that several victims came forward with allegations of being sexually abused by the minister. Authorities including the FBI said there are potentially dozens more victims. Porter was arrested in 2020.

The recent investigation into the 72-year-old Henry Lee Porter, Sr. was initiated in October 2019, after Sarasota Police were notified of a Facebook video titled “Art of Manipulation — My survival of Molestation” from a user who said he was sexually abused as a child by a bishop at Westcoast Center for Human Development. The victim told detectives that his first memory of sexual abuse started at 15 and continued until he was 21. It included “fondling, masturbation, oral and anal sex.”  

A couple of weeks later, a second victim told detectives he was 11 years old when he was sexually battered while under the “care and keeping” of Porter, according to the police affidavit. His parents were away for an extended hospital stay. He was a student at the elementary school run by the Westcoast Center. On January 2, 2020, Porter was arrested for one count of alleged sexual battery of a child under 12 years old, a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. 

Police interviewed more than 20 similar “fact victims” who provided statements outlining the abuse by Porter in various locations including on cross-country mission trips and on church-sponsored trips. The victims ranged in age from 12 to 19 at the time of the alleged abuse. According to Porter’s arrest report, when prior investigations were conducted in 1990 and the early 2000s, which revealed an anonymous letter that named 40 of Porter’s child sexual abuse victims, the statute of limitations prevented criminal charges. 

Many lifelong Sarasota residents, including Fredd Atkins, wasn’t surprised to hear about Porter’s arrest.

“This story has been running around this community for 40 to 50 years with this man,” he said. “There’s a lot of people around here that are burned by this. Outside of here, too. It’s not a local secret. This is international — this man has been all over the world.”

Police say a number of factors have come into play that allowed them to bring the case to the State Attorney’s Office. The evidence substantiates the child sexual abuse allegations, it’s within the statute of limitations, and they have a victim who is willing to testify.  Porter’s child sexual abuse victims are encouraged to come forward and give statements to Police as it provides credibility to other victims and potentially reveals details that can help with the current case. Additionally, Police say they can provide resources to help alleged victims with the healing process.

The role of pastors in the church is to support the spiritual needs of their parishioners. Education and often counseling and guidance in times of need are responsibilities with which they are entrusted. A trusted clergyman who sexually violates young children has no place working in the Church. Any ministry in which such a crime is committed must take responsibility for failing to properly screen potential priests and protect their parishioners. 

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by clergymen in Florida.  If you or a loved one was sexually abused, raped, or sexually molested by a priest or other clergy, contact our law firm at (888) 283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com for a free consultation.

 

 

Henry Lee Porter, Sr. - Horowitz Law

Former Sarasota Bishop Henry Lee Porter Arrested on Sexually Abusing Children Decades Ago

On Thursday, January 2, 2020, Sarasota Police arrested former bishop, Henry Lee Porter after multiple investigations “demonstrated more than four decades of children and adults suffering sexual abuse by Henry Lee Porter Sr..” Porter, 72, was arrested for one count of alleged sexual battery of a child under 12 years old, a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. 

Sarasota detectives had conducted a string of criminal investigations dating back to 1990 in response to multiple victims telling investigators throughout the years that Porter forced oral and anal sex on them and forced them to reciprocate. The most recent investigation leading to Porter’s arrest was initiated in October 2019, when Sarasota police received notification of a Facebook video titled “Art of Manipulation — My survival of Molestation” from a user who said he was sexually abused as a child by a bishop at Westcoast Center for Human Development. 

According to court documents, the victim told detectives that his first memory of sexual abuse started at 15 and continued until he was 21. The abuse involved “fondling, masturbation, oral and anal sex” with guidance from Porter. It often occurred in Porter’s inner office, in the Westcoast Center for Human Development. 

Police interviewed more than 20 similar “fact victims”, all boys ages 14 to young adults of various ages who provided statements outlining the abuse by Porter in various locations including on cross country mission trips and on church-sponsored trips. Prior investigations revealed an anonymous letter that named 40 of Porter’s child sexual abuse victims. 

Porter founded the Westcoast Gospel Chorus and was pastor of the church he incorporated in 1971 for 45 years. He stepped down in June 2016. Porter is  currently being held without bail, and the investigation is ongoing. If you have any information, please contact Sarasota Police.

The role of pastors in the church is to support the spiritual needs of their parishioners. Education and often counseling and guidance in times of need are responsibilities with which they are entrusted. A trusted clergyman who sexually violates young children has no place working in the Church. Any ministry in which such a crime is committed must take responsibility for failing to properly screen potential clergy and protect its parishioners. 

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy. If you or a loved one was sexually abused, raped or sexually molested by a priest or other clergy, contact our law firm at (888) 283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com for a free consultation.