Wednesday, November 30, 2005

 

Bible study turns violent at Glenn County Jail


WILLOWS, California - It's been said that more people have gone to war over religion than any other cause, but officials at the Glenn County Jail don't believe a fight during a Bible study class Sunday was faith-based.
"It was probably something that started in the pod, then carried over to the Bible study," said sheriff's Lt. Rich Warren.

Five inmates were reportedly attending the study session, which was being led by a pastor in the jail library.

Witnesses said Mario Martinez and Levi Pope suddenly started fighting in a corner of the room, and refused to stop when approached by four correctional officers.

The fight was physically broken up and the two men were taken back to their cells.

Officer Christa Berlier suffered minor injuries during the altercation and was taken to Glenn Medical Center in Willows for treatment of a sprained hand and small fractures.

Neither inmate required medical care, but Pope later complained of pain to his elbow and neck.

A computer and printer inside the library were damaged during the scuffle.

Pope, who had been serving time on narcotics and probation violations, was due to be released Dec. 28. Martinez, serving a 60-day sentence for a vehicular code violation, would have completed his sentence Dec. 21.

Both now face charges of felony battery on a correctional officer and destruction of jail property. The case will be sent to the Glenn County District Attorney for further action.

Warren said the jail is very careful about allowing inmates who don't know each other to interact, and said both men had been housed in the same living unit.


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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

 

Weekly church-related crime update, November 14 - November 20




  • Paul LeBrun, a Catholic priest at two suburban Phoenix, Arizona, churches, St. John Vianney Church and the Blessed Sacrament Church, was found guilty of abusing boys ranging from age 11 to 16 from 1986 to 1991, reported the Associated Press:

    LeBrun stood trial on eight counts of sexual conduct with a minor and five counts of child molestation. Jurors returned the six guilty verdicts but couldn’t reach agreements on five others. One other count was dropped, and LeBrun was acquitted of one count. Prosecutors alleged during the trial that LeBrun took advantage of young boys in Arizona and Indiana whose parents were abusive or divorced or boys who were abandoned by their fathers.

    LeBrun faces 81 to 110 years in prison.

  • Dean Robins, pastor of the Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church in St. Roase, La., was arrested for crime against nature after being accused of having sex with another man in the bathroom stall of a Saint Rose truck stop.

  • Gerald Fitroy Griffith, pastor of the Redemption Christian Fellowship in Woodlawn, Maryland, was charged with sexual abuse to a minor, perverted practice, sodomy, second-, third-, and fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault. "Police say they were contacted by five victims about alleged sexual abuse. Police say an investigation found that Griffith was sexually abusing the victims during counseling sessions in the church office," reported the Associated Press.

  • Keith Thomas, pastor of Vineyard (Ohio) Community Church, may be deported, reported WCPO News. Thomas, a British subject, had been convicted and served prison time on drug charges 35 years ago. The past conviction came to light when Thomas applied for a green card.


  • Aaron Joseph Cote, associate pastor at St. Pius V Church in Providence, Rhode Island, was suspended from his duties after Brandon Rains, a former altar boy, filed a lawsuit accusing Cote of sexually abusing him when he was 14 and 15 years old. (Cote and Rains are seen in the photo at left.)



  • St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, California, the only seminary operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and alma mater of Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Diocese of Orange Bishop Tod Brown and other prominent prelates, has produced a disproportionate number of alleged sexual abusers, reported the Los Angeles Times:

    About 10% of St. John's graduates reported to have been ordained in the Los Angeles Archdiocese since 1950 — 65 of roughly 625 — have been accused of molesting minors, according to a review of ordination announcements, lawsuits, published reports and the archdiocese's 2004 list of alleged abusers. In two classes — 1966 and 1972 — a third of the graduates were later accused of molestation.

  • Wendell Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, resigned as police investigated the alleged embezzlement of church money. The missing money was brought to the attention of police by members of the church's board of directors.

  • Dong Wan Park, pastor of Hope Korean Church in Tacoma, Washington, charged with filing fraudulent visa applications for two men he said were coming to the U.S. to work at his church, reported the Seattle Times.


  • Thomas Graham, who was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison in August on charges related to sodomizing a boy in the late 1970s in the rectory of St. Louis' Old Cathedral but who remains free on bail while he appleals, has been living in a retirement home next to a child-care facility, apparently in violation of state law, reported the Associated Press. After members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) made Graham's presence public, the St. Louis Archdiocese said it had moved Graham to a different facility, away from children.

  • Michael Edwin Wempe, the former chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, admitted through his lawyer that he had molested 13 boys in the 1970s and 1980s, reported the Los Angeles Times.

  • Edward J. Smith, the former the campus minister of Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware, was accused of sexually molesting a teenager at the school by the alleged victim, Lt. Cmdr. Kenneth J. Whitwell, a Naval healthcare administrator and optometrist at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va., reported Delaware State News.


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    Priest sentenced to eight months in jail on child porn conviction


    BARNSTABLE, Mass. --A Roman Catholic priest who pleaded guilty to storing hundreds of images of child pornography on his computer and coercing a 16-year-old boy into filming himself performing a sex act was sentenced Monday to eight months in jail.

    Prosecutors had recommended a three-year prison sentence for the Rev. Stephen A. Fernandes, 55, who was suspended as pastor of Our Lady Fatima Church in New Bedford.

    Bristol District Attorney Paul Walsh criticized Superior Court Judge Robert Kane for handing Fernandes a lighter sentence. He will serve the eight-month sentence at a jail on Martha's Vineyard and is eligible for parole in three months.

    "The court may see this as a victimless crime, but I don't," Walsh said in a written statement. "When I look at the terrible pictures of more than 500 kids, I see 500 victims."

    Kane did not immediately return a telephone message left with his secretary.

    Fernandes, who was arrested last November, pleaded guilty on Sept. 26 to charges of possession and distribution of child pornography and posing a child in a state of nudity.

    Investigators found more than 500 images of child pornography, including 114 video files, on his computer after he sent the laptop to a computer servicing company in Fall River.

    Fernandes also allegedly used an instant messaging service to pretend he was a 19-year-old woman and trick a 16-year-old boy into filming himself performing a sex act.

    The Diocese of Fall River, in a statement released Monday, called the case "profoundly disturbing."

    "Parishioners expect -- and rightly so -- that their priests will live lives of certain virtue and it is disturbing when they fall short, and particularly jarring when their actions are criminal," the statement said.


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    Charges shed light on church: Seattle `cult' is likely hiding members accused of sex abuse, police say


    More on the story below:

    Seattle - The shadowy history of an Eastside church, recognized by many as a cult, has come into focus with new charges of child molestation and an admission by one former member that he molested an 8-year-old boy.

    Steven A. Belzak told King County prosecutors that he began sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy at a home in Sammamish for male members of the Tridentine Latin Rite Church. In his confession, he said the abuse went on for three years, beginning in 2000.

    Another church member, 20-year-old Justin Kirkland, is charged with first-degree child rape and first-degree child molestation. And last week prosecutors charged a third man, Michael W. Muratore, 21, with first-degree child molestation.

    Kirkland and Muratore remain at large, and investigators believe the so-called cult that reared them is protecting them from prosecution.

    ``It's most likely that the cult is shielding or hiding them,'' said King County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart. ``This breakaway group is not recognized by the (Roman Catholic) church. They're a cult.''

    Belzak, now 20, pleaded guilty earlier this month to two counts of child molestation. He is scheduled for sentencing Monday in juvenile court. Prosecutors say they'll recommend a judge send Belzak to intensive sexual deviancy treatment before determining how much time he should serve.

    According to charging papers, the victim's mother went to Bellevue police in April 2004 after her son told her he had been molested while living at the Tridentine Latin Rite Church home in Sammamish.

    Since her son was 2, the woman told detectives, he had been raised by the men and other boys who lived at the house. She said the church was a cult, and she was allowed to visit her son only twice a year.

    She spent those years living with her daughters and other female members of the church at a home in Bellevue. It wasn't until she left the church last year that she learned of her son's abuse, prosecutors said.

    The Journal could not reach the now-13-year-old victim or his mother, but she told KING 5 News this week how she learned her son was abused.

    ``They were raping him and they were telling him that it was OK, that that's what everybody does,'' she said. ``It's very hard to admit that these people that I gave my son to, that I trusted, are the very ones that destroyed his innocence.''

    The woman's son told detectives and prosecutors that Muratore was the first to touch him when he was 7 or 8. Three weeks later, he said, Belzak touched him and made him take his clothes off while other boys were sleeping in the room.

    He said Kirkland later began molesting him, as well. The abuse went on until he was 11, he said.

    On one occasion, he was shut inside a closet with Belzak, when Belzak began touching him. A man who lived with the boys caught them and spanked them both.

    Urquhart said there are no allegations of organized or ritual abuse in the church, and the acts didn't occur under the direction of any of the group's leaders. Still, investigators are concerned that sexual abuse of children might be ongoing, and they suspect the church is covering it up.

    The church, also is known as ``Fatima Crusaders,'' has refused to cooperate with detectives, Urquhart said, and leaders of the cult have even denied the existence of Muratore.

    In fact, many of the children in the group have no birth certificate, Social Security number or any type of documentation. That's why it has taken more than a year to charge Muratore.

    ``We had a name but it took us a long time to figure out who he was,'' Urquhart said.

    In a report about the group published Nov. 25, 2002, in the Seattle Times, Muratore's father and aunt spoke about their decision to join the church.

    A truck driver and father of nine, Michael E. Muratore, 48, said he and his wife left a mainstream Christian church when it began to feel more like social club.

    ``After three or four months, you learned everything,'' Muratore said. ``It left us with an empty feeling. There had to be more to it.''

    The man said his faith in God ``gives total purpose to life. When you have a faith -- especially a purpose that says this is a means to an end, God provides opportunities.''

    The men of Tridentine Latin Rite Church have since abandoned the house in Sammamish, and police don't know where they're living now.

    Police say about 100 members of the Tridentine Latin Rite Church have lived in Renton, Bellevue and Issaquah for the last several years.

    The church has no published address or telephone number, and the Journal was unable to reach any representative of Tridentine Latin Rite Church for comment.

    The group should not be confused with other sects that broke away from the Catholic Church following global revisions in the way Catholics worship with The Second Vatican Council -- or Vatican II -- in 1965. The changes were intended to broaden the church's reach and appeal.

    Some groups formed new churches in opposition to Vatican II ruling to modernize the traditional Tridentine mass by replacing Latin with local vernacular and instructing priests to turn their backs on the holy altar during Mass.

    A lay church volunteer who helps organize a weekly traditional Latin mass at St. Joseph Chapel in downtown Seattle, Jason King of Mercer Island, said he and his organization, Una Voce of Western Washington, already have been mistaken for the cult. The difference, he said, is that he is a Roman Catholic and the Mass he organizes is fully recognized by the archdiocese of Western Washington.

    ``This cult is separate and distinct from the Catholic Church,'' King said. ``It's not recognized by the archdiocese. This cult doesn't even believe that Pope Benedict (XVI) is the pope. They don't believe there's been a pope since Vatican II in 1965.''

    At the heart of the mysterious group lies its founder, Francis Konrad Schuckardt, a charismatic leader who considers himself to be the true pope, according to members of the group.

    The group's history, as outlined in the book ``The Smoke of Satan: Conservative and Traditionalist Dissent in Contemporary American Catholicism'' by Michael Cuneo is marked by schism, controversy and police raids.

    A graduate of O'Dea High School, Schuckardt was one of the original defectors of the church, following Vatican II. The vocal traditionalist was ousted from his congregation and spent decades cultivating a following throughout the Northwest.

    Members of his church have described a harsh life with hours of prayer each day. Women and girls must cover their heads and wear long skirts. There have been reports of malnutrition and severe punishment such as shaving the heads of girls and forcing some to kneel during meals.

    Former members say the church uses fear to discourage its young followers from running away.

    In May 1987, a police SWAT team in California raided a house where the group was staying. They were searching for six children in two separate parental abduction cases. They didn't find the children, but they did find a cache of prescription pain killers, several guns, $75,000 in cash and records of numerous international bank accounts.

    The six children turned up elsewhere a few days later, after a new investigation into the cult had begun.

    Urquhart said investigators have found no sign of Schuckardt in more than two years. Most likely, he said, Schuckardt is dead, although his church insists he is alive.


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    Man in break-away Catholic cult wanted in child-rape case turns himself in


    Seattle - A man accused of taking part in a five-year pattern of child rape on the Sammamish Plateau turned himself in to authorities Monday and is being held in the King County Jail.

    Justin Kirkland, 20, was booked at the jail in downtown Seattle shortly before 3 a.m. and is being held in lieu of $75,000 bail, according to jail records.

    Kirkland was charged Dec. 23, 2004, in King County Superior Court with first-degree child rape in connection with incidents that allegedly took place between 1998 and 2003 at a home in the 21500 block of Southeast 39th Street that police said was being used as a "religious home," according to charging papers. Other accounts have described it as part of a breakaway sect of the Catholic Church.

    The charge was brought after an investigation that began when a woman told Bellevue police in April 2004 that her son had been sexually abused while at the home, court records indicate.

    The woman told police the home was the location of a religious cult where only males were allowed to live, the charging papers say. She said she was allowed to visit her son only twice a year.

    In May 2004, her son told police the sexual abuse began when he was between 7 and 9 years old, and he identified alleged assailants at the home, according to the charging papers. He said he had lived at the house five to six years.

    King County detectives questioned some suspects in July 2004. In further investigations this year, the woman who initiated the investigation took a detective to an address in the 13600 block of 197th Avenue Southeast in Renton, where she said she knew relatives of one of the alleged abusers lived "because they were in the church together," court documents say. The woman told police she had "escaped from the church" on Oct. 6, 2003, according to the papers.

    Department of Social and Health Services records indicated one of the children at the home indeed lived at the address on Southeast 39th Street, which was identified as the St. Francis Seminary. That and other information allowed the filing of amended charges this month identifying an additional suspect, records show.

    Besides Kirkland, one other defendant has been arrested in connection with the assaults, according to court records. The Issaquah man, now 19, was 17 when he was arrested in September 2004. He pleaded guilty to child rape in November 2004, but has been held for evaluation, with juvenile-court jurisdiction recently being extended to Dec. 31 of this year.

    No one was at the Sammamish home Monday. No trial date has been set for Kirkland.

    According to a Seattle Times story of November 2002, the sect members worshipped in a church using the name Tridentine Latin Rites. The members are among thousands of disaffected Catholics who broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s after the Vatican adopted changes to broaden the church's impact and appeal, according to the reports.


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    Pastor Pleads Guilty To Sex Charges



    HEBRON, Ohio -- A Central Ohio minister accused of sexually abusing two teenage girls in his congregation changed his plea in court Monday.

    Lonny "Joe" Aleshire, 35, was the associate pastor at the Licking Baptist Church in Hebron.

    In February, Aleshire, who has a wife and four children, pleaded not guilty to six counts of unlawful sex with a minor and one count each of rape and sexual battery.

    Aleshire pleaded guilty to reduced charges and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

    Judge Jon Spahr also labeled Aleshire a sexually-oriented offender.


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    Ex-minister faces 4th sex-abuse count


    Myrtle Beach, S.C. - A former Murrells Inlet minister already facing accusations of molesting children in Georgetown County was arrested Thursday in Williamsburg County and charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

    Troy Taylor, 36, of Murrells Inlet, also faces a charge of second-degree criminal sexual misconduct with a minor and two counts of lewd act on a minor because of previous accusations.

    He was released from the Williamsburg County jail Thursday on a $50,000 cash surety bond, a jail official said.

    Taylor is being represented by lawyer Scott Joye, who has said Taylor is not guilty.

    It is the fourth time since 2003 Taylor has been charged with molestation-related counts.

    Taylor was charged last week because a man who was once part of a youth group at Low Country Community Church in Murrells Inlet said he was molested when he was 11.

    The latest charge stems from allegations by the same man.

    The man said Taylor, the former minister and youth leader at the church, molested him after a church field trip to Huntington Beach State Park in 1999.

    The man is now 19 years old.

    Taylor surrendered to the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office on Nov. 22 and was released from the Georgetown County jail on a $20,000 surety bond.

    Taylor was taken to the Williamsburg County jail to face another charge on Thursday, jail officials said.

    The man told police he was molested in Williamsburg County in 1998 when Taylor took the youth group on a camping trip to the Black River, near Andrews.

    The incident took place after other campers were sleeping, the police report said.

    It said Taylor put his hand over the boy's mouth and the boy was made to fondle Taylor, then have intercourse with him.

    Taylor then warned the boy not to say anything about what happened, the report said.

    In 2003, Taylor was charged with committing a lewd act on a minor for incidents that police reports said took place in 1988 and 1991. A trial date has not been set for those charges.


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    Monday, November 28, 2005

     

    Traditional Values Coalition's Rev. Lou Sheldon Accepted Big Bucks to Support Gambling, Mislead Followers


    Ian sends us this:

    How a Lobbyist Stacked the Deck

    Lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his team were beginning to panic.

    An anti-gambling bill had cleared the Senate and appeared on its way to passage by an overwhelming margin in the House of Representatives. If that happened, Abramoff's client, a company that wanted to sell state lottery tickets online, would be out of business.

    But on July 17, 2000, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act went down to defeat, to the astonishment of supporters who included many anti-gambling groups and Christian conservatives.

    A senior aide to then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) helped scuttle the bill in the House. The aide, Tony C. Rudy, 39, e-mailed Abramoff internal congressional communications and advice, according to documents and the lobbyist's former associates.

    Rudy received favors from Abramoff. He went on two luxury trips with the lobbyist that summer, including one partly paid for by Abramoff's client, eLottery Inc. Abramoff also arranged for eLottery to pay $25,000 to a Jewish foundation that hired Rudy's wife as a consultant, according to documents and interviews. Months later, Rudy himself was hired as a lobbyist by Abramoff.

    The vote that day in July was just one part of an extraordinary yearlong effort by Abramoff on behalf of eLottery, a small gambling services company based in Connecticut. Details of that campaign, reconstructed from dozens of interviews as well as from e-mails and financial records obtained by The Washington Post, provide the most complete account yet of how one of Washington's most powerful lobbyists leveraged his client's money to influence Congress.

    The work Abramoff did for eLottery is one focus of a wide-ranging federal corruption investigation into his dealings with members of Congress and government agencies. Abramoff is under indictment in another case in connection with an allegedly fraudulent Florida business deal.

    Abramoff had deep roots in the conservative movement and rose to prominence by helping Republicans tap traditionally Democratic K Street lobbyists for campaign dollars. But in the eLottery fight, he employed a win-at-any-cost strategy that went so far as to launch direct-mail attacks on vulnerable House conservatives.

    Abramoff quietly arranged for eLottery to pay conservative, anti-gambling activists to help in the firm's $2 million pro-gambling campaign, including Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, and the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. Both kept in close contact with Abramoff about the arrangement, e-mails show. Abramoff also turned to prominent anti-tax conservative Grover Norquist, arranging to route some of eLottery's money for Reed through Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform.

    At one point, eLottery's backers even circulated a forged letter of support from Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R).

    Rudy declined to comment for this report. A spokesman for Reed -- now a candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia -- said that he and his associates are unaware that any money they received came from gambling activities. Sheldon said that he could not remember receiving eLottery money and that he was unaware that Abramoff was involved in the campaign to defeat the bill. Norquist's group would say only that it had opposed the gambling ban on libertarian grounds.

    Abramoff's lawyer declined requests for a comment.

    DeLay, an outspoken opponent of gambling, was an instrument, witting or unwitting, in eLottery's campaign, documents and interviews show. Along with Rudy, he was a guest on a golfing trip to Scotland. As majority whip, he cast a rare vote against his party on the Internet gambling bill and for the rest of the year helped keep the measure off the floor. He told leadership colleagues that another vote could cost Republican seats in the hard-fought 2000 elections.

    A statement from DeLay's lawyer said his votes "are based on sound public policy and principle."

    The Scotland trip is one aspect of the gambling matter being investigated by the corruption task force. The trip took place more than five years ago, which ordinarily would be beyond the five-year statute of limitations on certain possible corruption charges. But legal sources say prosecutors have obtained a waiver of the time limit because of the need to gather information abroad.

    Desperate Company

    Like many Internet companies emerging from the overheated 1990s, eLottery's money was drying up in the spring of 2000.

    The company was founded in 1993 on the gamble that even a small fraction of the market for helping states and others put lotteries online could be worth a billion dollars a year. But the company faced many obstacles.

    In 1998, the Justice Department had used existing gambling laws to force eLottery to shut down its first online lottery venture, with an Idaho Indian tribe. ELottery had not earned a dime since.

    The Senate had passed the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act in late 1999, aiming to make it easier for authorities to stop online gambling sites. With a companion bill by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.) advancing in the House in the spring of 2000, eLottery was desperate to ramp up its Washington lobbying. It had to sell off assets to stay afloat and raise cash.

    In May, eLottery hired Abramoff's firm, Preston Gates & Ellis LLP, for $100,000 a month, according to lobbying reports. In the following months, Abramoff directed the company to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to various organizations, faxes, e-mails and court records show. The groups included Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform; Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition; companies affiliated with Reed; and a Seattle Orthodox Jewish foundation, Toward Tradition.

    Robert Daum, a former eLottery official, said he could not recall the names of the groups that received the payments but noted that all the money spent by the company at Abramoff's direction was for the purpose of defeating the Internet bill.

    "We were willing to pursue all legitimate means to ensure that outcome, as people do all the time in Washington," Daum said. "Nothing more, nothing less."

    Arrayed against eLottery were many leading groups on the religious right who were pushing to ban Internet gambling, including the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition. James Dobson, influential leader of Focus on the Family, praised the bill in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

    Still, according to his strategy e-mails, Abramoff thought he could turn conservatives in the House against the bill. He seized on some compromise language in the bill making exceptions for jai alai and horse racing.

    Abramoff's plan: argue that the legislation and its exemptions would actually expand legalized gambling.

    Check in the Mail

    To reach the House conservatives, Abramoff turned to Sheldon, leader of the Orange County, Calif. - based Traditional Values Coalition, a politically potent group that publicly opposed gambling and said it represented 43,000 churches. Abramoff had teamed up with Sheldon before on issues affecting his clients. Because of their previous success, Abramoff called Sheldon "Lucky Louie," former associates said.

    Checks and e-mails obtained by The Post show that Abramoff recruited Reed to join Sheldon in the effort to pressure members of Congress. Reed had left the Christian Coalition in 1997 and started a political consulting firm in Georgia.

    Abramoff asked eLottery to write a check in June 2000 to Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition (TVC). He also routed eLottery money to a Reed company, using two intermediaries, which had the effect of obscuring the source.

    The eLottery money went first to Norquist's foundation, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and then through a second group in Virginia Beach called the Faith and Family Alliance, before it reached Reed's company, Century Strategies. Norquist's group retained a share of the money as it passed through.

    "I have 3 checks from elot: (1) 2 checks for $80K payable to ATR and (2) 1 check to TVC for $25K," Abramoff's assistant Susan Ralston e-mailed him on June 22, 2000. "Let me know exactly what to do next. Send to Grover? Send to Rev. Lou?"

    Minutes later Abramoff responded, saying that the check for Sheldon's group should be sent directly to Sheldon, but that the checks for Norquist required special instructions: "Call Grover, tell him I am in Michigan and that I have two checks for him totaling 160 and need a check back for Faith and Family for $150K."

    According to the e-mails, Reed provided the name and address where Norquist was supposed to send the money: to Robin Vanderwall at a location in Virginia Beach.

    Vanderwall was director of the Faith and Family Alliance, a political advocacy group that was founded by two of Reed's colleagues and then turned over to Vanderwall, Vanderwall said and records show.

    Vanderwall, a former Regent University Law School student and Republican operative, was later convicted of soliciting sex with minors via the Internet and is serving a seven-year term in Virginia state prison.

    In a telephone interview, Vanderwall said that in July 2000 he was called by Reed's firm, Century Strategies, alerting him that he would be receiving a package. When it came, it contained a check payable to Vanderwall's group for $150,000 from Americans for Tax Reform, signed by Norquist. Vanderwall said he followed the instructions from Reed's firm -- depositing the money and then writing a check to Reed's firm for an identical amount.

    "I was operating as a shell," Vanderwall said, adding that he was never told how the money was spent. He said: "I regret having had anything to do with it."

    Abramoff had previously paid Reed's consulting firms to whip up Christian opposition to Indian casinos and a proposed Alabama state lottery that would compete with the gambling business of Abramoff's tribal clients, sometimes using Norquist's foundation as a pass-through, a Senate investigation has found.

    A spokeswoman for Reed said Century Strategies had no business relationship with eLottery. She said Reed did anti-gambling work for Abramoff but was assured by Abramoff's firm "that our activities would not be funded by revenues derived from gambling activities."

    Norquist declined to be interviewed. His spokesman did not answer questions about the movement of funds.

    Another check issued in 2000 by eLottery at Abramoff's direction wound up helping to fund the Scotland golfing trip attended by Rudy and DeLay. On May 25, 2000, as the trip got underway, the company sent $25,000 to the National Center for Public Policy Research, where Abramoff was a board member at the time. Along with money from another Abramoff client, that payment covered most of the Scotland travel costs, according to records and interviews.

    DeLay has said that he thought the National Center sponsored and paid for the trip.

    A few weeks after the golfing trip, Abramoff took Rudy to the U.S. Open in Pebble Beach, Calif. They traveled aboard a corporate jet belonging to SunCruz Casinos, a Florida cruise line Abramoff was negotiating to buy, according to a participant who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. Rudy did not report this trip in his House travel records.

    Abramoff listed Rudy as a financial reference that summer in the SunCruz purchase. That transaction ultimately led to the indictment two months ago of Abramoff and a business partner on charges that they had forged a $23 million wire transfer.

    Working the Bill

    In early June 2000, DeLay had not yet taken a position on the Internet gambling ban. But his aide, Rudy, was already providing advice to Abramoff about how to kill it.

    Five days after Rudy and DeLay got back from the Scotland trip, Rudy sent an emergency message to Abramoff from a wireless device.

    "911 gaming," Rudy typed on June 8.

    He followed up with a suggestion that Abramoff's team get a conservative House caucus to seek a meeting with the chamber's top leaders, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) -- a key supporter of the bill. Abramoff forwarded the idea to his team members. "Message from Tony Rudy. Don't share it please. However we should take his advice."

    Sheldon was also hard at work, holding news conferences and buttonholing House conservatives to argue against the bill. On July 10, he called Abramoff's group saying he had run into resistance from the staff of an influential member who still favored the bill.

    "Lou just called," team member Shawn Vasell told colleagues in an e-mail. "We need to get together and draft a response for Lou." Kevin Ring, Vasell's associate, responded: "This is a disaster."

    Abramoff weighed in minutes later, saying he would get Reed to ramp up efforts. "I just chatted with Ralph. We are going to have to go on the air nationally on radio. We must get the conservatives back on this or we are doomed," he told the team.

    Abramoff got another strategy e-mail the next morning from Rudy. Rudy was on DeLay's staff but wrote "we" as though he belonged to Abramoff's team. "I think we should get weyrich to get like 10 groups to sign a letter to denny and armey on gaming bill," Rudy wrote, referring to Free Congress Foundation Chairman Paul M. Weyrich and the House leaders.

    Sheldon got a private meeting with DeLay on July 13. "I told him I strongly opposed the bill," Sheldon told Congressional Quarterly at the time.

    A former DeLay staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, "Lou was a credible face" because Sheldon's religious credentials carried some weight with conservative voters.

    DeLay then told House Republican leaders that he was prepared to go against the anti-gambling bill.

    The Bush Forgery

    Still, the Abramoff team was worried about the vote. So the eLottery forces pressed the argument that the Internet bill was an unfair infringement of the right of individual states to sell lottery tickets online. Amid the frenzied lobbying, a potentially influential letter making that case began circulating on Capitol Hill. It was purportedly signed by Jeb Bush.

    "While I am no fan of gambling, I see this bill as a violation of states' rights and I am looking to prevent this encroachment," the letter said.

    A surprised Hill staffer called the Florida governor's office, and the letter was exposed as a forgery.

    Months later, a little-noted investigation by Florida authorities resulted in a confession from a Tampa man hired by a division of Shandwick Worldwide, a public affairs company. Shandwick was working on the eLottery account with Abramoff's team. The Florida man, Matthew Blair, told authorities in a plea bargain agreement that he was hired to get letters opposing the bill from the governor and others. He said he created the forged letter on his own after he was unable to obtain one from Bush's office.

    Brian Berger, then a Shandwick official, said his firm had been hired to produce the letters by Abramoff associate Michael Scanlon, a former DeLay press aide. Berger said in a recent interview that although he and Scanlon knew Blair, they did not sanction the forgery. "Essentially, we had a bad operative," Berger said.

    But the letter still had an impact. It fed the confusion about the bill in the days before the floor vote. Goodlatte, the sponsor, had more than enough votes for his carefully crafted compromise. Yet he became worried that amendments might be introduced during the debate that could kill the bill.

    One way to avoid a floor fight is to place a bill on the suspension calendar, which is supposed to be for non-controversial legislation; it suspends the usual rules, banning amendments and limiting debate. But doing so would require a two-thirds majority for passage.

    Goodlatte agreed to the suspension calendar approach because he thought he could get the two-thirds. "We were told [by House leaders] to bring it up on the suspension calendar so you won't have to deal with all these amendments," said a member of Goodlatte's staff who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    That opening was exploited by the Abramoff team with Rudy's help -- fewer votes would be needed to stop the bill.

    On July 17, the House debated for about 40 minutes. Rumors continued to fly about the Bush letter. Some members remained confused about the bill's contents. About 30 did not vote. "There was a lot of misinformation," said a congressional staff member who worked on the bill.

    Still, Goodlatte had reason to be optimistic because nine out of 10 bills on the suspension calendar pass.

    But Abramoff's efforts had eroded just enough votes. The roll call -- 245 in favor, 159 against -- left Goodlatte 25 members short. The bill failed.

    'All Systems Go'

    The eLottery team was euphoric. Abramoff lobbyist Patrick Pizzella, who was in the Capitol to watch the vote, wrote in an e-mail to colleagues the next day that he saw Sheldon celebrating the victory, too. "There was lucky Louie out front hi-fiving with some lobbyists," said Pizzella, who the following year was named an assistant secretary of labor. Others partied across from the Capitol at the restaurant Tortilla Coast.

    Supporters of the Internet gambling ban, though, were outraged. They vowed to resurrect it, perhaps as part of an appropriations bill.

    The Christian Coalition issued an "action alert." Dobson took to the airwaves, saying, "I'm just sick about what the Republican leadership is doing with regard to gambling." He urged listeners to contact DeLay and other House leaders to revive the measure.

    Abramoff's team realized there was no way to win enough support for a simple majority because they were down more than two dozen votes. Instead, they had to persuade the leadership to keep the bill off the House floor, despite intense pressure from Goodlatte and another backer, Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) .

    On July 21, DeLay's legislative director, Kathryn Lehman, e-mailed Rudy: "Goodlatte and Tauzin asked Tom [DeLay] what they needed to do to get his vote, and Tom said to talk to you!"

    Rudy immediately forwarded the e-mail to Abramoff asking for help.

    Documents show that Abramoff's strategy was to dispatch Sheldon to pressure about 10 social conservatives in their home districts, accusing them of being soft on gambling for supporting Goodlatte's bill. Abramoff's group hoped those members would stir fears among House leaders that another vote on the gambling bill could threaten those members and thus the GOP's thin 13-seat majority.

    On Aug. 18, Abramoff faxed a message to eLottery's Daum ordering more money for Reed's activities. "I have chatted with Ralph and we need to get the funding moving on the effort in the 10 congressional districts," Abramoff wrote. "Please get me a check as soon as possible for $150,000 made payable to American Marketing Inc. This is the company Ralph is using."

    ELottery issued the requested check to American Marketing on Aug. 24 and delivered it to Abramoff at Preston Gates. Five days later, Abramoff e-mailed Reed. The subject, "Internet Gambling: And so it continues." The message asked, "Where are we? You got the check, no? Are things moving?"

    Reed answered the next day: "1. Yes, they got it. 2. Yes, all systems go."

    Targeting 'Our Guys'

    Weeks later, a political mailer from Sheldon's group landed like a small bomb in the North Alabama district of Rep. Robert Aderholt.

    The Republican was a member of the religious right's Values Action Team in Congress, a champion of public displays of the Ten Commandments and a vigorous gambling opponent. But now, in the midst of a tough reelection race, Aderholt was accused of being soft on gambling.

    "Congressman Robert Aderholt voted with them in support of HR #3125 with the law the gamblers want on horse and dog racing," said Sheldon's mailer. Sheldon urged voters to call Aderholt's Washington office "and ask him to vote NO this time." Aderholt's opponent quickly incorporated Sheldon's attack in an ad of his own.

    The bulk rate stamp on the mailing said it was paid for by American Marketing. Records show that the company is run by Robert Randolph, the president of Reed's direct-marketing subsidiary. A spokeswoman for Reed said that American Marketing is "a different company" and that she could not respond to questions about it.

    Sheldon's fliers also targeted Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, then the House GOP deputy whip, and vulnerable incumbents, including Rep. James E. Rogan of California, one of the managers of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and Rep. Robin Hayes of North Carolina.

    Angry House members targeted by Sheldon complained to the leadership. "Certainly our displeasure was relayed on up the chain, so to speak," said Andrew Duke, the chief of staff for Hayes.

    Abramoff's willingness to jeopardize Republican House seats startled his lobbying team, some of whom had come from DeLay's office. "Once we started talking about taking out our guys, I got worried," said a former associate of Abramoff's who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    The same former Preston Gates lobbyist said Rudy played a key role in getting House leaders to pay attention to the plight of members under attack.

    "Tony would say to members, 'Oh, you're getting phone calls on this? I better go tell the whip.' Lou Sheldon sending a letter is not going to do anything unless you have somebody on the inside. Tony exaggerated to leadership how backing the bill could hurt those members," the former Abramoff associate said.

    The outrage prompted Sheldon to back off in some of the races. In Aderholt's district, he issued a letter praising the congressman and claiming that his previous mailer had been mistakenly distributed. In Rogan's district, he stopped pressuring the incumbent and, instead, attacked his challenger as "a champion of the homosexual agenda."

    Sheldon said in an interview this week that he recalled little about his efforts against the bill in 2000. He said he did not remember receiving a $25,000 check from eLottery, but added that it is possible that his organization did receive it. He said he remembered some money coming in to pay for fliers he had printed and mailed to congressional districts to persuade members to oppose the bill.

    "I wasn't aware the money was coming from them [eLottery]," Sheldon said. "I don't think I ever saw the check. It came in, and we paid the bill for some of the printing."

    Sheldon also said he had no idea that Abramoff was lobbying against the bill or that he was working for eLottery.

    "This is all tied to Jack?" Sheldon said. "I'm shocked out of my socks."

    Chilling Effect

    Rudy, who had known Abramoff for years, went to work for Abramoff when the lobbyist switched law firms, to Greenberg Traurig LLP, in January 2001.

    Rudy's wife, Lisa, was also drawn into Abramoff's orbit. She was paid fees by Toward Tradition, the Seattle-based Orthodox Jewish foundation that often allies with the Christian right on social issues. The foundation is headed by longtime Abramoff friend Rabbi Daniel Lapin and the lobbyist served as chairman of the board.

    Toward Tradition was issued a $25,000 check dated Aug. 24, 2000, by eLottery. A copy of the check was obtained by The Post. Daum, the former eLottery official, said he could not remember the check but said all funds Abramoff directed him to spend were intended to defeat the Internet gambling bill.

    Lapin said in an interview that he could not remember a check from eLottery but that the company could have made donations to his foundation. He said that any such donation would have been separate from his foundation's hiring of Liberty Consulting, a political firm founded and operated by Lisa Rudy.

    "Lisa Rudy worked for us for six months -- six to nine months -- to organize groundwork for a conference," Lapin said. He said she was paid more than $25,000 but was unsure exactly how and when Lisa Rudy was hired. Lapin said her work could have been for an interfaith conference held in Washington in mid-September 2000. That conference, which opened a few weeks after the eLottery check was sent to Toward Tradition, featured such speakers as DeLay, Sheldon and Norquist.

    Rudy declined to comment on the Toward Tradition contract and said that his wife was not available for a comment.

    A month after the interfaith conference, the gambling bill's sponsors agitated to get House leaders to let them attach the measure to an end-of-the-year spending bill.

    But Sheldon's campaign in conservative districts had the desired chilling effect on GOP leaders. That became clear on Oct. 24, when House Republicans met to discuss their year-end strategy.

    What happened at the meeting was relayed to Abramoff by a former associate, David H. Safavian, who was then a lobbyist for a coalition of online gambling companies and who this month was indicted for allegedly lying to federal investigators in the Abramoff probe.

    DeLay, Safavian wrote in an e-mail, "spoke up and noted that the bill could cost as many as four House seats. At that point, there was silence. Not even Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) -- our previous opponent -- said a word."

    When Congress prepared to adjourn in 2000 without revisiting the gambling bill, Safavian was ecstatic. He sent his clients an e-mail, which was posted on the Web site of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

    "Relax a bit," Safavian wrote. "Policy beat politics once again. (Maybe the American system isn't really that bad.) The good guys won."

    Researchers Alice Crites and Julie Tate contributed to this report


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    Sunday, November 27, 2005

     

    Disgraced priest dies



    Mobile, Alabama - Alex Sherlock, forced to resign as an active Catholic priest in the wake of sexual abuse claims against him, was a Biblical scholar and a superb fundraiser, said those who remember him fondly.

    Sherlock's body was found at his house in Mobile on Wednesday. Authorities said his death was from natural causes. He was 65.

    While friends and relatives attended a funeral for him in Mobile on Friday, a former member of his Montgomery congregation and a fellow priest who attended the same seminary described Sherlock in positive terms.

    "In the time I knew him, he was a great guy and a great minister," said Carl Barranco of St. Peter's Catholic Church. "It was most unfortunate to have heard about his past."

    A Montgomery native, Sherlock was removed from his St. Peter's pastorate 21/2 years ago and transferred to Mobile after accusations of sexual improprieties with young boys in the Port City.

    The Mobile Archdiocese, in a statement following Sherlock's death, said: "Though entirely apart from active priestly ministry, the resigned priest observed conscientiously the circumstances of a discreet retirement in Mobile."

    The Rev. Oscar Lipscomb, who is the archbishop of Mobile, presided at a funeral Mass for Sherlock at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church on Friday afternoon.

    The Rev. Charles Troncale, pastor of Church of the Holy Spirit in Montgomery and one of Sherlock's fellow seminary students four decades ago, remembered his friend as a man who excelled in the Scriptures.

    "Those in his parishes -- those who benefited from his homilies -- could tell he was a scholar," said Troncale. "I was very saddened by the fact that he was removed from active ministry because of those accusations."

    Sherlock, who graduated from Sidney Lanier High School, took the lead in a major remodeling campaign at St. Peter's. He and church lay leaders raised an estimated $750,000 to improve the appearance of one of Montgomery's most historic churches.

    "The man had a vision to get it done, and he did a wonderful job for our church," Barranco said. "While he was here in Montgomery, we knew him as a very fine priest."

    When the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic church widened across the country three years ago, Sherlock was asked following his final Mass of Christmas in 2002 what he thought should happen to a cleric involved in such conduct.

    "He should go to prison," Sherlock said, during an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser. "He should pay the price."

    Sherlock presided at several Catholic parishes in the South during his days as an active priest. He also was a teacher and one of his top students in Mobile was Bill Pryor, who would become Alabama attorney general and later a federal judge.

    Sherlock's removal as St. Peter's priest stunned his congregation as well as many non-Catholics in Montgomery.

    The Rev. Steve Martin, who replaced Sherlock as St. Peter's priest, declined comment when contacted Friday afternoon.

    Troncale said those who knew Sherlock during his Montgomery tenure were "in shock" when they learned of his forced resignation and at news of his death.


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    Two women sue their priest father


    LOWELL, Mass. --Two 20-year-old women have filed a lawsuit in Lowell Superior Court alleging that their father, a Catholic priest with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Lowell, has refused to acknowledge them as his daughters and has subjected them to physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

    The Rev. Lucien Richard has acknowledged that he is the twins' father, but denies allegations that he rejected and abused them.

    When the twins were young, the order was told that Richard had fathered the two girls and about the alleged abuse. Nevertheless, the order continued to support Richard as a priest and "failed to take steps to terminate or reduce his abuse," according to the lawsuit.

    The twins, whose only address is listed in court documents as Hampshire County, are suing Richard and the Oblates for more than $200,000, according to court documents.

    Richard, 73, told The Sun of Lowell that he has always acknowledged that he is the father and has paid more than $500,000 in support since they were babies and denies ever physically or sexually abusing them.

    He has never been criminally charged, he said.

    Richard said the lawsuit is an attempt by his daughters' mother to get more money from him.

    Richard admits that having a priest for a father was an "emotional burden" for his daughters.

    "I didn't give them the right kind of family situation. I regret that," he said.

    But he tried his best, he said.

    His daughters have moved frequently with their mother and he hasn't always been told where they are living, Richard said.

    Alan Cantor, the twins' lawyer, said he would not comment without getting their authorization.

    The girls were the result of an affair between Richard and a female student at Westin Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, where Richard was her professor, academic advisor and counselor.

    He has never sought a DNA test to prove paternity.

    He did tell his superiors at the Oblates about the children early on, and the Archdiocese of Boston was notified about a year ago. Richard, who has never been a parish priest, continued to teach.

    After leaving the college in Cambridge, Richard has worked for the past decade teaching philosophy and theology at Boston University. Richard, who has health problems and uses a cane, has been on sabbatical and plans to retire at the end of the year.

    "I love my daughters," he said. "(The lawsuit) hurts me, but I know this isn't from them."


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    Reports: Scene turns chaotic at 2 Wal-Marts



    Link.

    So much for the genteel South.

    Early Friday morning, shoppers at a Wal-Mart in Beaumont told a local TV station that they were pepper-sprayed by a security worker when shoving broke out in the store's electronics department. In an Orlando, Fla., Wal-Mart, news cameras captured images of a man being wrestled to the ground by security after he allegedly cut in line to get a laptop computer that was marked down as part of a promotion.

    KBTV, the NBC affiliate in Beaumont, reported on its Web site that a crowd of shoppers was warned by an off-duty Beaumont police officer to back away shortly before he pulled out a can of pepper spray and sprayed it several times. Some customers were treated by emergency medical workers in the store parking lot, and others told a KBTV reporter that they planned to drive themselves to hospitals.

    In Orlando, the man who allegedly cut in line began arguing with fellow shoppers and then fought with security guards, ABC affiliate WFTV-TV reported on its Web site. The station reported that store employees were tossing the laptops into the air for shoppers to catch, causing people to bump into one another in the scramble. The man was let go with a warning after explaining that he thought the plainclothes security officers were other customers.

    Another Florida shopper made headlines on the day after Thanksgiving in 2003, when she allegedly was trampled by a crowd rushing to grab discounted DVD players. It was later uncovered that the woman, Patricia Van Lester, was a former Wal-Mart employee who had filed multiple injury claims against Wal-Mart and other businesses before the 2003 trampling incident.

    A Wal-Mart spokesman did not return a call seeking a comment.

    The situation appeared to be calmer at Wal-Mart's locations in North Texas, where shoppers lined up for early-bird specials including a 42-inch plasma TV for $997, a portable DVD and CD player for $79.86, a laptop computer for $398, and a children's bicycle priced at $25.88.

    Sonny Littlefield, manager of the Wal-Mart Supercenter on South Cooper Street in Arlington, said his employees began planning for the sales blitz more than a month ago.

    To make it easier for customers to access the sale items, groceries that are typically featured in the store's center aisle were cleared out and replaced with discounted televisions. Employees also cut off the lines for select items once they knew that the number of people in line matched the number of products available.

    Littlefield said his store had 30 of the $398 laptops and 10 of the plasma TV sets, which customers began lining up for at 11 p.m. Thursday. Because the store is open 24 hours a day, customers were able to wait inside the store next to the displays for each sale item.

    "We were packed at 4:30 a.m., but the customers were very cooperative, and it's gone really smoothly," Littlefield said Friday morning.


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    Wal-Mart shopper injured as people rush into store



    GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan -- Wal-Mart, Sears and Macy's are among those who say it appears they've drawn bigger crowds this year on the day after Thanksgiving than last year.

    But all was not smooth. At least one person was injured in the crush of shoppers coming into a Michigan Wal-Mart.

    A few people fell down as they entered the store, but some behind just surged forward.


    [Video at link]

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    Tennessee fires prison guard for ties to couple in deadly escape


    (Nashville, TN-AP) November 23, 2005 - Tennessee prison officials have fired a corrections officer because of his dealings with an inmate who made a deadly escape from custody three months ago. A prison guard was killed in the escape.

    Officials say Randall Ridenour had let inmate George Hyatte use a cell phone to talk to his wife about three weeks before the escape. They also say Ridenour admitted to calling Jennifer Hyatte later that day, although they haven't said Ridenour knew of the escape plan.

    Jennifer Hyatte allegedly opened fire outside a courthouse, killing a guard, as she helped her husband escape.

    A Tennessee Department of Corrections spokeswoman says Ridenour has lost his job for violating a ban on personal relationships with inmates and for "conduct unbecoming of an employee in state service."


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    Prison guard accused of selling cocaine


    L. NAZARETH TWP., N.J. - A Northampton County Prison guard was arrested Saturday morning after he allegedly sold cocaine to an undercover drug task force officer in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

    Kevin T. Murphy, 49, of the 400 block of Pershing Avenue, Phillipsburg, has worked for the prison for more than 24 years and was being paid $41,617 a year. Director of Corrections Todd Buskirk said Murphy has been suspended without pay pending completion of the investigation, but he would not comment further on the incident.

    Police said Murphy arranged to meet the Northampton County Drug Task Force member to sell him one gram of cocaine for $60. The transaction was captured by electronic surveillance and police arrested Murphy as he was leaving the parking lot.

    Police said he tore up the three $20 bills that were given to him in exchange for the drugs.

    Murphy was arraigned before District Judge Ralph Litzenberger around 2 p.m. Saturday and charged with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

    He was committed to Northampton County Prison in lieu of $25,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 30 at District Judge Joseph Barner's office.


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    Prison Guard Pleads Guilty To Smuggling Contraband


    (AP) PHILADELPHIA A prison guard pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery charges in federal court, admitting to smuggling contraband - including cell phones and booze—to five prisoners.

    Matthew R. Sartin, 34, who worked at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, raked in nearly $14,000 in exchange for the items, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Fitzgerald.

    Friends and relatives of the inmates sent the contraband to a post office box that Sartin opened in Bear, Del. Sartin retrieved the packages and smuggled them into the prison during a five-month period in 2003, prosecutors said.
    The smuggling ended when an inmate reported Sartin, and he was fired. Sartin, of Middletown, Del., is slated to be sentenced in February.


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    Saturday, November 26, 2005

     

    Minister arrested and charged with abuse


    Woodlawn, Maryland - A Woodlawn minister with an international following has been arrested in connection with five cases of alleged child abuse that date from June 2001 up to July 2004.

    Gerald Fitroy Griffith, 39, of the 1300 block of Peach Tree Court in Bowie, was taken into custody on an arrest warrant Nov. 15 at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Baltimore County police said.

    He is charged with sexual abuse to a minor, perverted practice, sodomy, a number of other sex offenses and assault, according to county police.

    Four of the victims are male. The female and two of the male victims were juveniles at the time of the abuse, according to police reports.

    Griffith was released on $600,000 bail pending trial, which has not yet been scheduled, according to Cpl. Mike Hill, a police spokesman.

    The incidents allegedly occurred during counseling sessions in the church office at Redemption Christian Fellowship, in the 6500 block of Dogwood Road, over a period of 4 1/2 years, Hill said.

    Police are asking anyone who may have been victimized by Griffith to call Detective Charles Allen at 410-853-3650.


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    Sex Abuse Investigator Accused Of Molestation


    (AP) JOLIET, Ill. - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet says a clinical psychologist who reviewed sexual abuse complaints against its priests has resigned after himself being accused of molesting two boys nearly 30 years ago.

    The psychologist, James Carger of Riverside, has denied the allegations, but says he resigned to avoid impeding the work of the Diocesan Review Committee. Carger has led that committee since May of 2003.

    No criminal charges have been filed against Carger, but two brothers, now 32 and 31 years old, contended that Carger molested them during counseling in 1979 shortly after their mother filed for divorce. Carger worked for the DuPage County Health Department at the time, and did not begin working for the church's volunteer panel until 23 years later.


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    Friday, November 25, 2005

     

    Erie minister charged in shooting


    Erie, Penns. - An Erie minister accused of shooting a 15-year-old youth in the leg last Friday has been charged with aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person.

    The Rev. Willie Sanders Jr., 42, a minister at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, said he and his 19-year-old son had gone to talk to relatives of a teenager who threw a bottle at his son, but a group of teens surrounded them and one indicated he had a gun.

    The Rev. Sanders said he did not intend to fire at the teenager but felt his life was being threatened, so he fired into the ground.

    "I wanted them to disperse and to leave my son alone," he said. "I would never in my life want to hurt someone else's child, but these young people are ruthless."

    Erie police Detective David Hudson, however, said witnesses told a different story. Police said witnesses told them that the Rev. Sanders brought his son back to fight the other teen, and the gun went off as he later tried to break up the fight.

    The shot passed through the leg of the teenager, who was later treated.


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    Hare Krishna organization sued for alleged child abuse


    Hare Krishnas are a little bit afield from our usual chronicle items, but I think it demonstrates a larger point: that religions of all stripes serve as refuges for sexual predators because of the blind trust and allegiance given to authorities. I was about to say that Hare Krishnas don't really represent the heartland, but look at the locations in the article: Dallas, Alabama, Florida. Hmmm. Thanks to Margaret for the heads-up on this:

    DALLAS (AP) -- More than three dozen former students of Hare Krishna boarding schools filed a $400 million lawsuit against leaders of the religious community Monday, alleging years of sexual, physical and emotional torture.

    The 44 plaintiffs in the suit allege child abuse over two decades at boarding schools in the United States and India.

    The federal lawsuit names the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) as lead defendant, along with 17 members of the group's governing board of top leaders and the estate of the movement's founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

    Plaintiffs' attorney Windle Turley called the abuse ``the most unthinkable abuse and maltreatment of little children we have seen. It includes rape, sexual abuse, physical torture and emotional terror of children as young as 3 years of age.''

    He said ISKCON knowingly allowed suspected sex offenders to work in its boarding schools.

    A Hare Krishna spokesman in Washington, Anuttama, said Monday that Krishna leaders have acknowledged abuse in the boarding schools and worked to provide counseling and financial support to victims.

    ``It's disappointing that it had to go to a court situation,'' he said. ``We will try to do anything we can to address their needs.''

    ISKCON's Child Protection Task Force, formed in 1998, has compiled the names of 200 people who allegedly inflicted abuse in the 1970s and '80s, said director Dhira Govinda. The office has finished investigating more than 60 cases, he said.

    ``There is no doubt many children did suffer ... while under the care of the organization,'' Govinda said.

    He said Krishna leaders have pledged $250,000 a year to investigate past child abuse and aid survivors.

    Turley said the abuse started in 1972 at ISKCON's first school in Dallas, and continued in six other U.S. schools and two in India.

    He said he believes more than half of the children in the schools were victimized.

    ``We believe the facts as they are developed will reveal more than 1,000 child victims, many of whom have already taken their own lives or are today emotionally and socially dysfunctional,'' said Turley, whose Dallas law firm won millions in a sex abuse case against the Roman Catholic Church in 1997.

    In a statement faxed to The Associated Press late Monday, Vinod Patel, president of the Dallas Krishna Temple, said the temple is a ``different corporation with different by-laws, management and staff from the organization that ran the school during the 1970s.''

    ``Not a single person involved with this temple since 1980 had anything to do with the Krishna boarding school named in the lawsuit,'' Patel said.

    Among the allegations against ISKCON are that young girls were given as brides to older men who donated to the religious community.

    The lawsuit also claims that children were:

    --Forced to sleep in unheated rooms and walk great distances in bitter cold without coats or shoes;

    --Deprived of medical care for malaria, hepatitis and broken bones;

    --Scrubbed with steel wool until their skin bled;

    --Moved to different schools in different states without their parents' consent.

    Plaintiff Greg Luczyk, 30, said he was beaten four or five times a day with a two-by-four while in a Krishna school in India in the early 1980s.

    He said his mother tried to remove him from the school and sent him plane tickets to come home, but teachers would tear up the tickets in front of school assemblies.

    ``The parents were trying to get us out, but the ring of molesters had tight control,'' said Luczyk, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

    The Hare Krishna spiritual community flowered in the 1960s when Prabhupada brought his distinctive form of devotional Hinduism to the United States.

    Soon, thousands of Westerners were wearing saris and pajama-like dhotis, living in Hare Krishna temple compounds, and chanting the mantra they believed would lead to a greater awareness of God known as Krishna.

    Prabhupada said children should be sent to boarding schools at age 5 so they could learn to be pure devotees, freeing parents to sell devotional books and do other jobs.

    By the end of the 1970s, 11 schools, known as gurukulas or houses of the guru, were operating in North America with several more around the world. Now, the only boarding school in the United States is in Alachua, Fla., home to the largest American Hare Krishna community.


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    Thursday, November 24, 2005

     

    Pastor gets probation after admitting sexual relationship with 14-year-old relative



    KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Despite admitting to having a five-month sexual relationship with a 14-year-old family member, a former lay pastor at a Knoxville church is not going to spend a lot of time in jail.

    Court papers show Jerry David Hembree, 48, used force and coercion to have sex with the young girl, but a circuit court judge sentenced him to just five years probation and five months in jail.

    Hembree, who lives at 685 Bethany Court, pleaded guilty to having sex with the family member. He is now a registered sex offender.

    At a court hearing Tuesday, Hembree admitted to a five month sexual relationship with the girl in his Maryville home.

    The victim said in a court statement, "Jerry did this to me. It really broke my trust and made it harder to trust people. It also caused a lot of family problems, especially with my mother. It was real confusing."

    She has since moved away from the area.

    It's the details of his probation that concern officers who have to keep track of Hembree.

    In the sentencing phase, the judge decided Hembree is allowed to use the Internet, but his hard drive may be monitored.

    The judge also ruled it's okay for him to travel out of state while on probation because his job requires him to do so.

    Every time Hembree leaves the state of Tennessee he has to report his travel to his probation officer.

    After that, the officer has to send out an alert to the state he is traveling to.

    6 News talked to a probation officer about the judge's decision. The officer told us his department expressed concerns about putting Hembree on probation.

    But in light of the judge's ruling, the officer says the department will do its best to supervise Hembree.

    After the guilty plea, Hembree's wife took the stand, asking the judge for a light sentence.

    She said, "I feel like being on the (sexual offender) registry is sufficient. I don't think he is a risk to the general public. He doesn't spend time with other people's children."

    In addition to her testimony, Hembree's attorneys also provided letters of support from members of his church, where he served as a lay pastor.

    The letters say Hembree admitted his sins and asked for forgiveness.

    6 News tried to contact members of Hembree's church for a comment, but no one was available.


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    Pastor arrested in sex abuse case dies in fall at national park


    SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, Calif. - A Porterville minister accused of sexually abusing two teenage parishioners fell 400 feet to his death at Moro Rock, a National Park Service official said Monday.

    The Rev. Santos Teixeira's fall Sunday was under "uncertain circumstances," requiring the Park Service to notify the FBI of its investigation, said Alexandra Picavet, a Sequoia National Park spokeswoman.

    Picavet said park investigators have yet to determine the manner of death and cautioned it was standard procedure to notify the FBI about the case, which occurred on federal land.

    Teixeira, 56, fell to his death late Sunday afternoon from the summit of Moro Rock, a 6,500-foot-tall granite dome. Picavet said a person believed to be a parishioner and other bystanders were in the area, adding those eyewitnesses have been interviewed.

    Teixeira's family has asked the Park Service to look into the pastor's death, Picavet said. A telephone number for the family could not be located.

    Teixeira, who was the pastor of Iglesia Del Nazareno church in Porterville, was ordered last August to stand trial on charges of rape and sexual assault. The allegations involve two teenage sisters who attended his church.

    Prosecutors said Teixeira befriended the girls and their mother shortly after the family moved to the area from Mexico.

    Teixeira's lawyer has said there was no physical evidence of a crime and the girls' statements were vague and inconsistent.

    Teixeira would have faced 45 years to life in prison if convicted.


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    Pastor accused of stealing ID of parishioner


    Ensley, Florida - An Ensley pastor facing fraud charges was arrested for the second time in a month -- this time on identity theft charges, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office reported Wednesday.

    The Rev. Gabrieli Andre Davis, pastor at True Love Community Baptist Church, is charged with forging the signature of a church trustee and using her personal information to get a loan so the church could purchase a $6,000 riding lawn mower.

    Davis, 53, of the 6200 block of Songbird Lane, was taken to Escambia County Jail late Tuesday, then released after posting $5,000 bond.

    Neither Davis nor church officials returned telephone calls Wednesday.

    Davis was arrested in October and charged with bank fraud, organized fraud and grand theft, the Sheriff's Office reported. The bank fraud and grand theft charges were dropped by the state attorney's office. Davis pleaded innocent to organized fraud. A court date has been set for Jan. 4.

    The October arrest stemmed from tax-consulting work he performed for another church through his bookkeeping service. Sheriff's investigators said that between 1998 and 2004, Davis falsely billed Damascus Road Baptist Church for more than $31,000, sheriff's Investigator John Canning said.

    The identity theft complaint was part of a separate investigation of the March purchase of a 23-horsepower EverRide "Z-Mower" with a 44-inch cut, on which a down payment of $2,000 was made.

    The victim, Ardelia Catchings, received a call in July from Sheffield Financial telling her she was behind on her payments, a Sheriff's Office arrest report stated.

    Catchings explained she didn't have an account with Sheffield, but the company sent her a credit application filled out with her name, home address, home phone, work place, work address, work phone, Social Security number and date of birth. Catchings' forged signature appears four times on the loan application, the arrest report stated.

    Catchings' personal information was on record at the church because she was a trustee, the report stated.

    Catchings filed a complaint with the Sheriff's Office in July. She told investigators Davis had asked her to help buy the church a lawn mower, but she turned him down. She said she did not allow anyone to use her information to buy the mower.

    Davis told the investigator that the incident was a misunderstanding, that Catchings had told him, "Do what you have to do," which prompted him to sign her name on the loan document. Davis made the down payment, the report stated.

    Court records show Davis had been on probation related to separate workers' compensation fraud, credit card fraud and grand theft charges in 2002 and 2003.

    "It's not common for someone involved in religious activities to be a suspect in so many different crimes," Canning said. "Given his criminal history, you would think he would want to make an effort and set an example."


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    Oklahoma Preacher Gets Punched During Sermon


    TULSA, Okla. -- A preacher who was punched in the face during a church service met with his alleged assailant, saying he wanted to pray for him.

    The Rev. Billy Joe Daugherty said Tuesday that Steven Wayne Rogers showed no remorse and offered no apology during their meeting at the Tulsa Jail.

    "He said he'd do whatever he wants, to whomever he wants, whenever he wants," Daugherty said.

    Rogers, 50, was identified as the man who came forward during an altar call near the end of Sunday's Victory Christian Center service, motioned for Daugherty to approach and then hit Daugherty twice, opening a cut above Daugherty's eye that required two stitches.

    The episode was videotaped as part of the service and broadcast on TV news shows.

    "I had just told the (biblical) story of Paul and Silas being beaten and thrown into jail," said Daugherty, whose church is one of Tulsa's largest.

    "They were mistreated, but they praised God," he said. "I was talking about living a lifestyle of praise, through every situation. This (attack) was like an illustrated sermon."

    Daugherty said he returned to the stage following the attack, not knowing that his face was smeared with blood.

    He also offered prayers.

    "We immediately forgave the man and acknowledged that he didn't realize what he was doing," Daugherty said. "We prayed that God would help him."

    Daugherty said he did not know his attacker and did not plan to press charges.

    Police Sgt. Kim Presley said assault charges had not been filed and no report on the assault was on file.

    However, Rogers remained in jail after being arrested Sunday on a bench warrant issued for failure to appear in court on a charge of violating a protective order.

    Police said Rogers was cited Sunday for simple assault by a security guard at Victory who said he was struck while helping another guard control the situation.

    Fifteen years ago, Rogers struck Richard Roberts, son of evangelist Oral Roberts, while Roberts was rehearsing for his "Richard Roberts Live" television show, the Tulsa World reported Wednesday. Roberts did not file charges.


    See the video here.

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    Ex-pastor arrested on third charge


    Myrtle Beach, S.C. - A former Murrells Inlet minister who was indicted last year on two charges of molesting boys was arrested Tuesday on an additional charge of second-degree criminal sexual misconduct with a minor.

    Troy Taylor, 36, who led Low Country Community Church in Murrells Inlet, surrendered Tuesday afternoon at the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Neil Johnson.

    A bond hearing will be today at the Georgetown County jail, Johnson said.

    Taylor's lawyer, Scott Joye, said his client has maintained his innocence on all charges.

    "I can't comment, other than to say that Troy has maintained all along that he is not guilty of these charges," Joye said. "He is going to await his day in court."

    Police said the latest charge is in connection with an alleged 1999 molestation at Taylor's former residence on Gibson Avenue in Murrells Inlet.

    Taylor now lives on Little Tony Avenue in Murrells Inlet.

    Taylor, a father of two, at the time was 30 and the victim was 11, the report said.

    Taylor was leader of the youth group at Low Country Community Church and the boy was a group member, the report said.

    Taylor took the children to Huntington Beach State Park on a church field trip, police said.

    Taylor then took the boy back to his home, where the molestation took place, police said.

    The incident happened in late June or early July, the victim said. Police did not give additional details on the incident.

    Taylor also has been accused of molesting two other boys at his home in 1991 and 1988.

    One person, now 26, said he was molested in 1991, when he was 12 and Taylor was about 20.

    The other, now 29, also was 12 when he was molested in 1988, police said.

    Taylor was freed on $10,000 bail after his arrest in those cases.

    Taylor left Low Country Community Church in August 2003.

    Before then, he did missionary work in Romania and adopted an orphan from that country.

    Two other Georgetown County ministers have been arrested on similar charges.

    In June 2001, the Rev. Gerald J. Ryfinski, 46, of Highmarket Street in Georgetown, was charged with third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. At the time of his arrest, Ryfinski was serving as priest of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Georgetown.

    Ryfinski pleaded guilty in Georgetown County Courthouse, was sentenced to probation and was required to register as a sex offender.

    In August, Kenneth "Tripp" Atkinson III was charged with sexually assaulting a teenage girl three years ago while he was youth pastor at the Pawleys Island Community Church.

    Atkinson, who is free on $30,000 bail, has been ordered to stay away from the girl, who is now 17. His case still has to go to trial.

    Atkinson, who is on paid leave from his post as a student minister at First Baptist of Columbia, was arrested Aug. 10 after turning himself in at the Georgetown Sheriff's Office.


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    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

     

    Weekly church-related crime update, November 7 - 13




  • Edwin Scherzer, an 80-year-old retired priest living in Louisville, Kentucky, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing four boys in the 1950s and 1960s. "One of the accusers says Scherzer choked and sexually abused him after instructing him to take off his clothes," reported WKYT News.


  • Leonard Robertson, pastor of Prepare the Way Community Church in Medina, Ohio, and father of 17 children, was "arrested for rape and gross sexual imposition for allegations involving two of his adopted children," reported WKYC News.

  • Eugene Ward Jr., pastor of Greater Love Missionary Full Gospel Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, was charged with domestic violence and aggravated menacing after police said Ward beat his wife. According to the Plain Dealer, Antoinette Sims-Ward told police Ward had choked her with a phone cord, and that her nightgown and panties were ripped off in the fight; Mrs. Ward ran to a neighbor's house, naked save for an overcoat. Ward is well known as an anti-gay marriage activist. According to a Plain Dealer article from 2004:

    "If we allow same-sex marriage, it will be the beginning of the fall of the nation," said Bishop Eugene Ward Jr. of Greater Love Missionary Full Gospel Baptist Church. "It's important to the future of humanity."... "It's not that I say it's wrong. It's that the Bible says it's wrong," Ward said of same-sex marriage. "I'm a firm believer if we're going to save our society, I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden coming in and attacking Cleveland. But I'm concerned about the enemy that is already within."

  • Dennis "Tony" Montoya, assistant minister at Word of Grace Church in Mesa, Arizona, pleaded guilty to molesting an 8-year-old girl 13 years ago, when Montoya was 15.

  • Timothy Paul Rowell, youth director at Main Street Baptist Church in Kernersville, N.C., pleaded guilty to taking indecent liberties and statutory sexual offense in a case involving two teenage girls.


  • Warren Jeffs, the "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who has been indicted on two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor for marrying a 16-year-old girl to a much older married man, "comes and goes with impunity" from the 1,700-acre Yearn for Zion Ranch near Waco, Texas, said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

  • In the last few years, as many as 100 people have filed sex-abuse lawsuits accusing more than a dozen priests and volunteers of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus-- the Jesuit order in Oregon, reported the Oregonian.

  • Jerald Schara, pastor at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Marxville, Wisconsin, was arrested on child pornography charges.

  • Kerry Von Smith, pastor of Howard General Baptist Church in Quitman, Arkansas, was arrested on charges of leaving the scene of an accident that left one man dead. "The attorney representing Smith says his position as a pastor only strengthens his case," reported KATV News.

  • Talbert L. Gwynn, pastor of Wilmington (Delaware) Church of Christ, pleaded guilty to groping two male church members, reported the Williminton News Journal:

    According to police, Gwynn grabbed a 14-year-old boy’s genitals in February, when the boy was staying at Gwynn’s house. That same month, Gwynn grabbed a 25-year-old man, who was at his house for Bible study, kissed him on the lips and then hugged him, police said. As the man pulled away, Gwynn placed his hands under the man’s shirt, then grabbed his buttocks.

  • Gregory Fladeland, minister at Covenant United Methodist Church in Lancaster County, Penns., was sentenced to 3½ to 7 years in prison after he was found guilty on one count each of criminal attempt at rape, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault and simple assault, reported the Intelligencer-Journal:

    According to a report filed by Millersville police Sgt. Howard R. Bauman, a woman with whom Fladeland had a previous relationship told police she woke to find him in her bedroom in the early morning hours of Aug. 22, 2004... "Greg Fladeland took his clothes off and proceeded to force (the woman) to have sex with him," the report states. "(The woman) stated that she tried to force him away, but Greg was too strong." Fladeland pulled down the woman's pajama bottoms and ripped off her top, Bauman says in the report. "(The woman) was fighting Greg and bit him on the right shoulder," Bauman's report states. "Greg Fladeland then said, 'Oh, this is how you want it.' Greg Fladeland then struck (the woman) in the head two to three times with an open fist." Fladeland ultimately was unable to complete the sexual act, according to Bauman's report.


  • James Michael Holthus, pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lake Crystal and St. John Lutheran Church in Rapidan, Minnesota, was arrested on charges of first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct after a man said that when he was about 14 Holthus took him on trips, showed him pornography, bought him boxer shorts, asked him to pose for photos -- and had sex with him, including once at the church parsonage on Christmas Eve, reported the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

    The complaint, signed by Blue Earth County Sheriff's Capt. Will Purvis, said Holthus admitted to fondling the boy but denied giving him oral sex. The complaint said Holthus admitted there were times when he groped the boy while he was sleeping and, "for some reason, that made me feel" as if "this kid is all mine."

    The pastor's supporters packed the courtroom for Holthus' arraignment and have started a legal defense fund.


  • See the entire never-ending chronicle of church-related crime (dating back to June 5) here.

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