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Gay congregant testifies at Word of Faith minister's trial

A courtroom sketch of Brooke Covington (right) in court Thursday, June 1, 2017. Testimony is underway in the case involving the Word of Faith minister, who's charged with assaulting a former church member. (Artist: Skip Rohde)

A North Carolina man has testified that he thought he was "going to die" when members of his evangelical church beat and choked him to expel his "homosexual demons."

Matthew Fenner testified Thursday at the start of the assault trial of Brooke Covington, a 58-year-old minister at Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina.

Fenner said Covington was the ring leader in a January 2013 beating involving numerous congregants. He said Covington pointed out his sexual orientation, saying, "God said there is something wrong in your life."

The 23-year-old Fenner said he had cancer as a child and had a biopsy one week before he was assaulted. He said he was frail and in his mind during the beating he was thinking, "Is my neck going to break, am I going to die?"

Covington is the first of five church members to face trial in the case. Each defendant will be tried separately.

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11:25 a.m.

A prosecutor says a North Carolina minister "directed and participated in" the beating of church member who says the assault was meant to expel his "homosexual demons."

Prosecutor Garland Byers gave an opening statement Thursday in the trial of Brooke Covington, a 58-year-old minister at Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina.

Covington is the first of five church members to face trial. They will be tried separately.

Covington is charged with kidnapping and assaulting former church member Matthew Fenner. If convicted, she faces up to two years in prison.

Her lawyer, David Teddy, disputes the allegations.

The 23-year-old Fenner says he was slapped, choked and screamed at for two hours in January 2013 as members tried to expel his "homosexual demons."

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