‘Bishop’ drops longtime attorney, defending himself in fraud trial

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Herman Jackson has dismissed his court-appointed lawyer and is defending himself against fraud charges in federal court. | Sun-Times file photo

Herman Jackson’s lawyer stood by him for years, even after Jackson warned the “wrath of God” would visit the home of a federal judge overseeing his case.

But now court-appointed lawyer Matthew McQuaid is sitting on the sidelines, watching Jackson defend himself against fraud charges in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman.

Jackson dismissed McQuaid on Friday, records show. He did so on the third day of a trial where the feds intend to prove Jackson and his wife, Jannette Faria, bilked Illinois out of hundreds of thousands in child care subsidies through day cares at Jackson’s Cicero church. The judge asked McQuaid to remain in the courtroom as stand-by counsel, records show.

Meanwhile, the man known as the bishop of the Ark of Safety Apostolic Faith Temple has begun to cross-examine witnesses on his own. As he has done so, Jackson has kept what appeared to be a Bible with him at the courtroom podium.

“As you know, I’m not a lawyer,” Jackson told one witness Monday as he prepared to cross-examine the former member of his flock. “But I am representing myself in this case.”

Wearing a dark blue suit, a blue tie and red-framed glasses, Jackson asked questions slowly and deliberately as he embarked on an endeavor judges warn strongly against: defending oneself against criminal charges. The judge and jury waited patiently as Jackson would sometimes stop mid-question and begin again, struggling to form his queries properly.

He kept a foam water cup nearby, occasionally using two hands to take long sips.

On Monday he faced Denise Pugh, a woman who purported to be the owner of Jubilee Daycare Center next door to Ark of Safety. Jackson was also involved in the day care’s operations, according to his indictment. Pugh told the jury Jackson used “several aliases,” including Henry Walker and Henry Richardson.

“Herman Jackson was my pastor,” Pugh testified. “I trusted him. I believed in him. And I wanted to help my church.”

But under later questioning by Jackson, Pugh admitted she initially lied to the FBI about her role at the day care center. She also conceded that Jackson gave her a place to live when she nearly became homeless.

Jackson’s trial could wrap up in the next few days. McQuaid told jurors last week that Jackson shouldn’t be on trial, that he stole no money and that he’d been “singled out and harassed every day” by Cicero town officials simply for being true to himself.

“Herman Jackson did not commit any crimes,” McQuaid said. “All he did was fight for the Ark of Safety.”

A grand jury indicted the couple in 2012. The next year, Jackson warned the Chicago Sun-Times that “the wrath of God almighty shall soon visit” the judge’s home. He later apologized and denied he meant it as a threat.

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