James Richard Harris, Belle Glade pastor found guilty, swallowed mints, not pills, test shows

Officials thought it was courtroom suicide attempt

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — All the tablets a Belle Glade pastor swallowed in court were strong enough to do was sweeten his breath on his way to jail.

The Rev. James Richard Harris downed a handful of breath mints Thursday in what people in the courtroom thought was a suicide attempt after a jury had convicted him of molesting a 15-year-old boy and videotaping several teens having sex, a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office toxicology report revealed Monday.

Harris looked barely conscious as paramedics ushered him to the elevator on a gurney. The 64-year-old refused to tell deputies what kind of pills he had tried to swallow — but he promised them he would be dead by nightfall.

On Monday, Harris was still alive and still in jail, facing an 80-year prison sentence. Then the toxicology screen on the tablets came back.

"Yes, mints," prosecutor Chrichet Mixon said Monday, confirming the results. "My initial reaction was the same as the one I had at the time this happened: Nothing this man does surprises me."

The revelation Monday adds the latest twist to the bizarre case of the one-time community leader, whose trial last week exposed what Mixon and fellow prosecutor Michael Kugler called a predatory scheme in which Harris cajoled a teenage football player into allowing him to perform sex acts on him in exchange for helping him become a football star.

Rumors that Harris had molested several boys connected to the Glades Central High school football program have been circulating for decades, but authorities didn't arrest him until 2009, when a videotape of teens having sex surfaced on a camcorder allegedly stolen from Harris' house.

Harris had remained free on bond until jurors convicted him last week. Although he appeared to take the verdict without emotion, he pulled the pills out of his pocket and tried to swallow them the moment Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes ordered him taken to jail until his Oct. 5 sentencing.

Harris was on high suicide watch at the Palm Beach County jail over the weekend, but Mixon on Monday evening wasn't sure whether that provision had been lifted. Mixon said the fact that the pills turned out to be mints made her feel that Harris made a mockery of the criminal justice process.

"It just goes to show that he always has an ulterior motive," she said. "He clearly had an ulterior motive when he befriended those children, and he had a motive for doing what he did in the courtroom."

Print this article Back to Top

Comments

Read More

Bella: Deceased woman Bella: Deceased woman's will asks for her still-living dog to be buried with her

An Indiana woman who died in November requested in her last will and testament that her dog Bela be buried with her. One problem: Bela is still alive.

Jonathan Warrenfelt, Joshua Zeaya: Facial tattoo, bungled stickup leads cops to robbery suspects Jonathan Warrenfelt, Joshua Zeaya: Facial tattoo, bungled stickup leads cops to robbery suspects

The facial tattoo "Misunderstood" stood out to victims of a robbery at gunpoint in Dania Beach.

Ashley Taylor Wright threw her baby at a deputy at Pensacola Dillards, Okaloosa County police say Ashley Taylor Wright threw her baby at a deputy at Pensacola Dillards, Okaloosa County police say

A Pensacola woman, Ashley Taylor Wright, has been arrested after authorities say they tried arrest her for shoplifting and she threw the baby at a deputy as she tried to escape.

Stephen Amaral robbed while naked swimming woman distracts him Stephen Amaral robbed while naked swimming woman distracts him

A Tennessee man found this out the hard way when a woman dipped in his pool, naked, as her husband robbed his home.

Giant purple chicken stolen in Putnam County, three men charged with grand theft Giant purple chicken stolen in Putnam County, three men charged with grand theft

Putnam County investigators say it was "fowl" play when three young men stole a giant chicken.

Invisible man in Fort Pierce prefers his stolen cigarettes mentholated Invisible man in Fort Pierce prefers his stolen cigarettes mentholated

A man in Fort Pierce said he used his "powers of invisibility" to abscond with a carton of menthol cigarettes, but his conscience appears to have gotten the best of him.

Janna Howard faces 43 counts of animal cruelty in ‘worst hoarding case’ in county history Janna Howard faces 43 counts of animal cruelty in ‘worst hoarding case’ in county history

A woman who lived in a home that local authorities in April called the worst hoarding case ever in Palm Beach County is in the county jail today, facing dozens of animal cruelty charges.