Trial Postponed For McKenzie


By John L. Guerra


Circuit Court Judge Mark Jones has agreed to postpone the trial for the former reverend of St. James First Missionary Baptist Church accused of stealing money from his congregation.




Rev. John McKenzie, 51, was to stand trial on March 10, but the date was moved to May 12; a pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 22, according to the Monroe County Clerk’s Office.




McKenzie pled not guilty at his arraignment in June and asked for a jury trial.




It is the latest in a series of postponements McKenzie received as he prepared his defense. He requested a motion to continue his pretrial conference twice — once in September and again in January.




McKenzie fired Merrill Sands, his defense attorney, in January, which led to further delays as Jones heard Sands’ motion to withdraw. Sands would not say why McKenzie dismissed him when asked by KonkLife.




McKenzie then got a new defense lawyer, Alan Fowler, who did not return a phone call for comment.




The trial date was first set for the fall; a second date was set for March 10, but that was continued to May. Fowler will use the time to prepare a new defense for McKenzie.




St. James’ board of trustees voted to fire McKenzie and ordered him to move from the church-provided home after he allegedly received pay advances that exceeded his annual salary by about $54,000, prosecutors contend.




His new trial date is set for 9 a.m. on May 12.




He is charged with a second-degree felony and could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.


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