A pastor charged as part of an indictment that includes former President Donald Trump has been released from jail thanks to funds raised by a conservative advocacy organization and a prominent conservative influencer.
Pastor Stephen Lee of Living Word Lutheran Church in Orland Park, Illinois, is one of more than a dozen individuals indicted with Trump by a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, in connection with efforts to contest the results of the 2020 presidential election in the Peach State.
Lee is accused of going to the home of a Georgia election worker in an attempt to influence her testimony. He turned himself over to authorities in Georgia on Friday, about an hour before the deadline.
Although he didn’t anticipate attending Sunday, the pastor indirectly addressed his legal situation from the pulpit after he was released on bail.
“I just have to say this. I am so proud of you folks,” he began.
“We were planning on possibly my absence today but didn’t skip a beat,” he added.
The charges directed at Lee stem from his visits to the home of Fulton County elections worker Ruby Freeman in December 2020. According to the indictment, Lee committed the felony offense of “influencing witnesses” by “purporting to offer her help, and with intent to influence her testimony in an official proceeding in Fulton County, Georgia, concerning events at State Farm Arena in the November 3, 2020, presidential election in Georgia.”
The indictment states that the defendants maintained that “Freeman, her daughter, and others were responsible for fraudulently awarding at least 18,000 ballots to Joseph R. Biden at State Farm Arena in the November 3, 2020, presidential election in Georgia.” Additionally, they alleged that Freeman “stuffed the ballot boxes” with fraudulent votes for Biden.
Lee faces additional charges for sending Harrison Floyd to speak to Freeman after she reportedly refused to speak to the pastor because he was a white man and working with others to solicit false statements and writings from Freeman. The indictment characterized Lee’s activities as “racketeering.”
Lee’s gratitude on Sunday likely stems from his inclusion on the Living Word prayer list for Aug. 27, which calls for “prayers of guidance and blessing” for the Lee family “as they work for their current struggles, and a prayer of thanksgiving for support.”
In an appearance on “Diamond & Silk: The Podcast” Thursday, Lee’s attorney, David Shestokas, told the conservative influencer known as Silk that his client was due to report to jail the following day. He noted that if convicted, Lee faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison.
After detailing how Fulton County had set Lee’s bond at $75,000, with the defendant expected to pay 10% upfront, Shestokas reported that the conservative advocacy organization Illinois Family Institute set up a defense fund for Lee that had raised almost $4,000.
Silk, whose name is Herneitha Richardson, offered to “make a contribution and pay that $3,500,” instructing Shestokas to tell his client “don’t worry” because “Diamond and Silk: Chit Chat Live is going to pay that $3,500 that he needs.”
“Once he [pays] that and if he’s found not guilty, will he get that money back?” Silk asked. After Shestokas responded in the affirmative, Silk urged Lee to donate the $3,500 to his church if/when he is found not guilty.
The Illinois Family Institute’s efforts to raise money for Lee’s legal defense continue as the organization partners with a honey company called MakeHoneyGreatAgain.com, which has committed to donating “a significant portion of the proceeds from their honey sales” to Lee’s defense.
In his conversation with Silk, Shestokas said Lee served as a chaplain to the New York Police Department and New York firefighters after 9/11. He also ministered to Hurricanes Katrina and Irma victims, the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, and the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
Shestokas told The Daily Beast that the crimes Lee has been charged with carry a five-year mandatory minimum and a 20-year maximum. While the lawyer acknowledges that his client did travel to Freeman’s home, he was only there to “be of some service to this woman that was under siege.”
“The stuff that the rest of the world [sees] on the surface, if all they see is he knocked on the door, they think that he’s involved in election interference,” Shestokas continued. “OK, but if you look at his history, it’s one of service, one of unification, if you want. That’s what’s in his mind.”
Lee was a former police officer in California before becoming a pastor. Shestokas contends that Lee went to her home only after seeing her situation “go viral” and sought to help her during what he figured was a difficult period.
However, prosecutors contend that Lee’s argument doesn’t hold up and accused the pastor of later urging the Chicago-based leader of a group called Black Voices for Trump, Floyd, to travel to Freeman’s home. Floyd, who is also indicted, then urged a former publicist for Kanye West, Trevian Kutti, to travel to Freeman’s home on Jan. 4, 2021. Prosecutors allege Kutti proclaimed to be there on behalf of a “high-profile individual” and advised Freeman that if she didn’t confess to voter fraud she could be thrown in jail.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: email@example.com
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