At about 7 a.m. Monday, before heading for the federal courthouse, actor Wesley Snipes joined black ministers from churches in Orlando, Gainesville and Ocala for a prayer service.
Several ministers then came for the beginning of Snipes' trial on tax evasion charges. In front of the Golden-Collum Memorial Federal Building, they talked with reporters, saying they prayed for fairness, deliverance and God's favor.
The Rev. Frank E. Thompson, of The Worship Center Orlando, had organized the service at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Ocala.
"All the pastors came because, No. 1, Wes' from Orlando and we came to pray on his behalf," Thompson said.
"It's important not only to show support for him - but any person," said the Rev. Fred Maeweathers Sr., pastor of Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Ocala.
Snipes' lawyers had raised the issue of whether Snipes, as a black man, can get a fair jury in the Ocala Division of the Middle District of Florida.
"Can a person get a fair trial here or every county, everywhere in the state of Florida?" Maeweathers said. "That will be judged by history. And I don't know if there will be a difference. ... I believe that, if we trust in God, fairness comes through him."
Pastor Rozella Brown, of Tabernacle of Deliverance Outreach Ministries in Ocala, wanted to show her support for Snipes.
"He is our brother, and, as the Word of God says, we are our brother's keeper," Brown said.
"Basically, the purpose of the prayer was that God would grant favor and that God would give deliverance for Brother Snipes and that he would also have a fair trial."
Pastor Glenda Sesler of Ocala's Everlasting Light of God Outreach Ministry said she attended the service to lend the strength that comes with unity.
"I was there," Sesler said, "to show my brotherly love and just to show him that we love him."
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