Four men cleared of wrongdoing in Joel Osteen church heckling case

Thursday, June 23, 2016
Men cleared of wrongdoing in Osteen church heckling case
Jurors returned a not guilty verdict for four men who were facing charges in the heckling case against Pastor Joel Osteen.

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Last June, six men were dragged out of Lakewood Church after interrupting Pastor Joel Osteen's sermon.

Wednesday, four of them -- Kevin Fessler, Matthew Martinez, Randall Valdez, and Mark DeRouville -- walked out of the Harris County Courthouse singing in victory after they were cleared of all charges.

MUG SHOTS: See photos of the men arrested

"We were unashamed of the gospel onto death," says Kevin Fessler. "We were willing to suffer. We were willing to go to jail or anything."

They're members of the Church of Wells, a religious group based in Wells, Texas, that some call a cult.

Pastor Joel Osteen was allowed to walk in through the back to take the stand. He told the court he couldn't really see the men but could hear them, and he sensed hostility in their tone. The defense says his testimony actually helped their case.

"At times he was quoting scripture. At times he appeared to even suggest let's hear from everybody," says defense attorney Brad Looper.

The trial was not about whether the four were part of that group that interrupted the sermon. Both sides agreed they were. It was more about their intent. The judge dismissed the trespassing charges during trial. And the jury found them not guilty of disrupting a meeting or procession.

RELATED: Suspects accused of heckling Joel Osteen make court appearance

Kevin Fessler says they were sent by the Lord with a message that Joel Osteen is a false prophet because of what they call his prosperity message.

"The scripture says that without holiness, that no man shall see God. And so we believe the true gospel turns people from their sins," Fessler says. "The true gospel causes a man to have godly sorrow over their sins, and to live a holy life. That's not what he's preaching."

"Those men, they are not who they say they are. And they should have gone to jail," says Patti Grove.

Grove and her husband Alan came in from Arkansas to sit in on the trial. They tell us their daughter disappeared to join the Church of Wells three years ago, and they believe she's being kept against her will.

"I think they convince people to feel sorry for them," she says. "Their attorneys made them look like they're just expressing their opinion. It's not true."

Charges are still pending for the two other men arrested, including one of the leaders of the Church of Wells.

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