Church leader turned prison inmate - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Church leader turned prison inmate

This man, claiming to be Joe Nathan Best, will be in jail for the next 12 years This man, claiming to be Joe Nathan Best, will be in jail for the next 12 years

MARCH 19, 2005 -- Reverend Joe Nathan Best used to preach about sin at his church in Whiteville. Now he's in jail, serving time for selling cocaine.

Representing himself, Best stunned prosecutors when he pled no contest. That means he doesn't admit guilt, but the court treats it as a guilty plea.

Prosecutor Chris Thomas says Best sold cocaine to an undercover agent. After being caught, he dropped to the ground and prayed. Agents also found a crack factory inside a mobile home behind his house off Union Valley Road.

Not only did authorities find drugs, they also found a sermon Best prepared for Sunday services at El-Bethea Holiness Church in Whiteville. The title, "From Crack to Christ."

The thing no one was able to discover, his real name. He used several aliases, including the name Joe Nathan Best, the same name as his brother who drowned in the late 80s.

"If you ask me what his age was, I couldn't tell you," Thomas says. "We consider him John Doe until someone proves to me otherwise."

His followers at the church say they still support their convicted pastor. They claim everyone makes mistakes and God will forgive him.

His "mistakes" have sent him to prison for over 12 years. The last thing he told prosecutors was to pray for him.

Reported by Maggie Alexander

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