Sarasota clergyman gets life terms for sexually assaulting children

Henry Lee Porter
Henry Lee Porter(SCSO)
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 5:48 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Bishop Henry Lee Porter Sr., a Sarasota clergyman convicted of sexually battering children in the 1980s and 90s, was sentenced Friday to life in prison.

Porter was sentenced to two consecutive life terms after a jury convicted him in June of two counts of capital sexual battery upon a child less than 12 years of age.

During the trial, five men testified how Porter sexually abused them when they were children.

The victims and their families were previously members of Porter’s church, the Westcoast Center for Human Development, in downtown Sarasota. The jury heard how members of the church revered Porter and believed him to be God’s “anointed one.”

Porter used his position of religious authority to manipulate and groom children into sexual abuse, prosecutors said.

Police began investigating Porter in October 2019 after learning of a video on social media alleging sexual abuse. Detectives reached out to the alleged victim, who told them that Porter sexually abused him beginning in 1989 when he was 11 after his parents went out-of-state for an extended period of time to stay at a hospital.

Law enforcement investigated Porter for child sexual abuse numerous times in the past dating back to the 1970s. However, a case was never prosecutable because of statute of limitations restrictions.