Twenty-year-old David Newman says if he had a chance to talk to the jury that acquitted his former youth minister, Jeffrey London, of sexually abusing him and three other boys over the course of years during their childhoods in his London's care, he'd ask them why.
Why they seemingly discarded his testimony and the testimony of London's three alleged victims. Why that testimony combined with sexually explicit texts from London’s own phone and his ex-wife’s testimony that she saw the minister in bed with one 16-year-old alleged victim didn’t convince them to convict.
“I don’t know why you didn’t believe me,” said Newman, who chose to shed his anonymity to tell his story. “I don’t know what I could say to you -- other than I was child-molested by my pastor. You didn’t see my heart. You didn’t see my pain.”
Juror Robert Jacobsohn said he initially believed London’s guilt was a “slam dunk,” but once he got in the deliberation room he and his fellow jurors ultimately decided there wasn't enough evidence to convict. He said he was driven by the judge’s order to not let “emotion” become involved in the decision.
“I know [London is] not a saint,” said Jacobsohn. “I know something happened. You just have to prove it. You have to show me.”
Newman countered that the detailed and emotional stories from the four alleged victims were evidence just as powerful as DNA.
“Nobody believes me,” he said. “Not guilty after all these kids stepped up, not guilty. How many kids do you want? Fifty? A hundred? How much evidence do you need? That’s evidence, a human being.”
London, who testified in his own defense, remains in jail because he's facing another sex crime trial involving five more alleged victims who lived in his Lauderdale Lakes home while he worked as youth minister at Bible Church of God in Fort Lauderdale and served as a dean at Eagle Academy Charter School in the Lakes. He took dozens of boys into his home, including Newman, who was placed there by his mother during economic hard times for the family. He lived with London for years and says he was molested starting when he was nine or ten.
“I was young, I had nobody to go to,” said Newman. “He made it seem like he was god.”
The victims gave graphic, tearful, and intricately detailed testimony of how London dominated their lives and virtually turned them into sex slaves. But Jacobsohn said he wondered why it took ten years to report the abuse. Newman said London so dominated his life that it was impossible to tell. He said another reason was that he was afraid he might be killed if he told, saying that London at times had a gun beside him in his bed which he said London called “Gloria.”
“I felt like I had nobody,” he said. “My mom’s not going to take me in. Where am I going to go? Who did I have? [I thought] nobody is going to believe me just like right now. Same reason, right now, the whole world don’t believe me. It’s not guilty and I’m back to the same position.”
Newman works at a restaurant and lives out of his car. He said he often drives at night because he doesn’t want to go to sleep. London, he said, causes him nightmares.
“Last night he was chasing me everywhere,” said Newman. “In my dreams I can fly sometimes and then when I get too high I lose faith and I’m getting closer and closer back to the ground to him and then he grabs me and then he was just shaking me and then I woke up crying and my friend ran and hugged me this morning. I was like, ‘Please don’t let me go.’”
He said he relies on his Christian faith but that took another recent jolt when his pastor, Bob Coy of Cavalry Chapel, left the church amid scandal involving infidelity. He no longer attends that church.
“When I read the Bible, that’s the only thing that keeps me strong,” Newman said. “I should have prayed more. I should have done more. I feel like I let everybody down. I’m going to be blessed in heaven, it’s just hard to see it right now.”
He also said he worries about the other alleged victims and their well-being.
"How do they feel? I’m so confused right now, I don’t know what to do, imagine [the other victims],” he said.
And Newman had one last message for the jurors.
“I wish you could have really heard me,” he said. “I tried to tell you the truth.”