New details revealed in child exploitation case against La Grang - WDRB 41 Louisville News

New details revealed in child exploitation case against La Grange music minister

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A federal judge refused to release a former music minister on home incarceration Wednesday afternoon, calling the allegations of child exploitation against him, "the pit of horror."

That came after lurid details in the case against 62-year-old Howard Chambers surfaced for the first time during a hearing in U.S. District Court. Chambers was the minister of music, and according to prosecutors, headed up a youth choir, at DeHaven Baptist Church in La Grange.

Chambers appeared in court in a black-and-gray-striped jumpsuit, along with his attorney, Armand Judah. Chambers' wife and two children were present in the courtroom, as was Assistant U.S. District Attorney Spencer McKiness.

During the hearing, Judah requested that Magistrate Judge James D. Moyer allow Chambers to be released on $50,000 bond on home incarceration while the case moves forward, to be supervised by his wife under restrictions determined by the court. Judah pointed out that Chambers has no criminal history of any kind. 

McKiness strongly disagreed with the proposal, wanting Chambers to remain in custody.

"I think that the central issue is going to be whether or not the defendant constitutes a danger to the community or not," Magistrate Judge Moyer said, pointing out Chambers' history of working as a church leader.

"All this looks, frankly, like the fox inside the chicken coop," Magistrate Judge Moyer said. "And frankly, I'm very concerned with that."

At that point, McKiness rose to present evidence in the case against Chambers: evidence that until now has not been made public. McKiness alleged that Chambers posted an ad on the online classifieds site Craigslist, in which he sought out -- and repeatedly took part in -- sexual encounters. Prosecutors say some of those sexual encounters were with a minor.

McKiness placed the Craigslist ad into evidence, in which Chambers allegedly laid out details of a sex fantasy. He said the ad was for a "granddaddy babysitter fantasy" in which Chambers described himself as a "62-year-old granddaddy here looking to play," and that the responder should consider herself  "a teen that has been asked to look in on granddaddy." 

In a recorded interview with law enforcement, Chambers explained his reasoning behind this ad. McKiness played portions of that interview for the judge.

"I think I put on there one time...a fantasy of, like...it would be fun to meet a legal-age girl who maybe looks younger," Chambers said in the recorded interview.

Prosecutors say a man responded to the ad, and Chambers visited his home, expecting to meet his wife for sexual activity. Instead, prosecutors said, the man offered Chambers his 10-year-old daughter. According to prosecutors, Chambers eventually engaged in sex acts with the 10-year-old -- who is now 11 -- on seven or eight occasions over the past year, often paying her father $100 - $200 for the sex acts.

When investigators asked Chambers why he kept visiting the man's home when he knew it was wrong, Chambers replied that he was worried that the man would turn him in for what he had done.

"I was scared," he said in the recorded interview prosecutors played for the judge. "For what it's worth...I thought, 'Oh Lord, do I...should I do anything about this?"

He added in the interview that he was only doing what the girl's father told him to.

"All this was at his instruction," Chambers said on the recording. "Everything. Every single thing."

McKiness then presented the judge with what he called a pornographic image that allegedly showed Chambers with the girl.

At one point in the recorded interview, investigators reasoned with Chambers, pointing out that he was a music minister.

"We know that the path to forgiveness begins with the truth," the investigator said on the recording.

"Yes," Chambers replied. 

"I don't think you're lying to me," the investigator's recorded voice said, "But I don't think you're being completely true to yourself or to us."

A short time later, investigators could be heard taking a harder approach.

"This was a 10-year-old girl -- now an 11-year-old girl -- that after the first time, you knew what was going to happen there, sir!" another recorded voice said.

"Where was it gonna stop?" one investigator asked in the interview.

"That's a question I can't answer," Chambers replied. "I don't know if I would have come to the point where I would have come forward. I don't know."

"I was scared," he added. "I felt like I was trapped."

When -- in the recorded interview -- investigators confronted Chambers with the allegedly pornographic image, he readily identified the child and himself.

"See, I did not know if he was taking pictures," he said of the girl's father.

After presenting these allegations, McKiness asked the judge to deny the defense team's request that Chambers be let out on home incarceration.

"There is a true danger to this victim," McKiness said of the girl. "He knows where she lives. He's visited her home and been in her bedroom."

Judah countered that, while the seriousness of the alleged crimes should in no way be discounted, "We need to keep this in perspective." He pointed out that Chambers could be required to abide by certain restrictions while he was on home incarceration, including the removal of all computers and smart phones, and a mandate that he have no unsupervised contact with minors.

Magistrate Judge Moyer flatly denied that request, requiring McKiness to remain incarcerated.

"This is the pit of horror," Moyer said. "This is the worst kind of abuse that one can imagine."

He pointed out the supervision of his wife would not be enough to keep Chambers from criminal behavior, because "he has repeatedly violated that trust."

"This is so serious, and so repeated and so intentional by someone who should know better!" Magistrate Judge Moyer said.

As a result, Chambers remains in custody -- and prosecutors say he may face additional charges. They add that none of the allegations have anything to do with his role as a music minister at the church.

The girl's father -- whose identity is currently being withheld to protect the identity of the victim -- is also facing federal charges.

A grand jury will hear the case against Chambers later next month. If a true bill is delivered, he will likely be arraigned on Nov. 25.

Members of the DeHaven Baptist Church in La Grange say they are shocked beyond words by the allegations against their music minister.

“This kind of thing just really took the wind out of us. We were just worried and prayed a lot for our church. Usually ate dinner with him on Wednesdays. Really a fine, fine fellow, was doing a great job as a music minister,” said Gary Rawlings.

Unless Chambers is proven guilty, Rawlings says there is nothing he can do but pray.

“We're praying for him and his whole family as they go through this,” said Rawlings.

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