ATLANTA – The husband of televangelist Juanita Bynum pleaded guilty Tuesday to assaulting her, was sentenced to three years' probation and then turned to her and apologized.
Thomas W. Weeks III, a minister known to his followers as Bishop Weeks, turned after his sentencing to address Bynum, who sat in the second row of the Fulton County courtroom gallery.
"I want to apologize to my wife for all she's had to go through," he said.
Bynum nodded in response and quietly thanked him. The two later walked out of the courthouse together.
"They are in communication and working on their relationship and the status of their marriage," said Ed Garland, Weeks' attorney in the criminal case.
Prosecutors alleged that Weeks beat Bynum — a prominent televangelist whose message of women's empowerment resonated with thousands of followers — in the parking lot of an Atlanta hotel in August.
According to a police report, Bynum told officers that Weeks "choked her, pushed her down, kicked and stomped her ... until a bellman pulled him off of her."
Weeks initially pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated assault and making terroristic threats. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to a single count of aggravated assault.
Weeks must undergo violence and anger counseling and complete 200 hours of community service that cannot be church-related. He had been barred previously from communicating with Bynum, but that restriction has been lifted. His record will be cleared if he completes the terms of his sentence.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said during a brief press conference that a personal plea from Bynum initiated by Weeks' grandfather convinced prosecutors not to pursue jail time for Weeks.
"Many people in her situation would've been asking for him to be put in jail," Howard said, calling Bynum's request "courageous."
Bynum said that she was overwhelmed by Weeks' grandfather's plea.
"I don't believe my husband is a criminal," she said.
Bynum is a former hairdresser and flight attendant who became a Pentecostal evangelist, author and gospel singer. Weeks is the founder of Global Destiny churches.
The couple wed in a million-dollar, televised ceremony in 2002 and together wrote "Teach Me How to Love You: The Beginnings."
Bynum filed for divorce from Weeks a month after the attack, citing "cruel treatment" and saying the marriage was "irretrievably broken." Since then, the two or their lawyers have issued a series of conflicting statements about the initial incident and the couple's travails.
On Monday, the couple saw each other for the first time in months, when Bynum appeared at Weeks' divorce lawyer's office to be deposed in that case. She said the meeting was emotional.
"When I saw him, it allowed me to reflect on the first time we got married," Bynum said. "I thought about the time wasted and the time lost, and I said, `This has got to stop."'