'Bishop' calls FBI agent a liar as trial draws to a close

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Bishop Herman Jackson at the Ark of Safety Apostolic Faith Temple in Cicero in May of 2013. | Sun-Times File Photo

Herman Jackson waved his paperwork in the air.

He pounded his fist on the courtroom podium as if he were at the pulpit. He mimicked the people who testified against him. And most of all, the man defending himself against fraud charges at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse used his closing argument Monday to call nearly everyone involved in the case against him a “liar.”

But no one got more attention from Jackson than FBI Special Agent Laura Miller, whose investigation of Jackson’s wheelings and dealings led to his indictment nearly three years ago. Jackson would later earn headlines by predicting the “wrath of God” would visit the home of the federal judge overseeing his case.

“Agent Miller is a liar,” Jackson said repeatedly Monday.

Jackson even chanted Miller’s name over a prosecutor’s objections and earned a rebuke at one point from U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman about the “professionalism” she expected from him in court.

The feds found it all pretty rich. Jackson describes himself as the bishop of the Ark of Safety Apostolic Faith Temple in Cicero. He and his wife, Jannette Faria, are accused of scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars in child-care subsidies out of the state through day care centers connected to the church. Jackson dismissed his attorney shortly after the trial began.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Ridgway and Matthew Madden bluntly summed up the evidence against Faria and Jackson, who was known to roll around in fancy cars. Ridgway called Jackson a “Bentley-driving lover of the poor.” Madden later said Jackson “raised lying to an art form,” and he described one of Jackson’s day care centers as a “fraud factory.”

“And he’s the one in here accusing everyone else of being a liar?” Madden said.

Scrolling through notes on an iPhone, Jackson told jurors he’d long been targeted by officials at the local, state and federal level. He also said he had an agreement with parents who enrolled their children at the day care centers at his church to bill the state even for days their children didn’t attend.

Faria’s attorney, Heather Winslow, noted her client didn’t enter the picture until halfway through the fraud scheme. Winslow said there was no evidence Faria intended to scam the government or had any idea what was going on.

But the prosecutors said Faria did nothing to stop the scam even after being confronted by a day care employee. And they said Jackson offered no explanation for why multiple government agencies would conspire against him.

“He’s the biggest liar in this courtroom,” Madden said.

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