Eddie Long, New Birth seek to recoup settlement money

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/September 30, 2011

Attorneys representing Eddie Long's church have informed three of the five young men who accused the pastor of sexual coercion that they intend to recover nearly $1 million from their financial settlement, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

The letter, sent this week by the Atlanta law firm Drew Eckl & Farnham, alleges that Jamal Parris, Spencer LeGrande and Centino Kemp violated terms of a confidentiality agreement outlined in the settlement with Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. The firm is seeking at least $900,000 already paid the three accusers, according to people involved in the settlement but not authorized to speak publicly. That figure is a portion of the total settlement with the three men.

Financial terms of that settlement have not been disclosed but, based on the letter and the fact each of the young men were paid equitably, the total comes to at least $1.5 million.

The letter outlines the plaintiffs' "demand for arbitration" though no legal documents have yet been filed.

The letter could simply be a threat, said Atlanta litigator Hayden Pace.

"No one's going to turn over the money just simply because you've asked for it," Pace said. "You're going to have to earn it back by establishing your right to it in the courts."

Parris and LeGrande, who broke their silence in an interview with the AJC last month, said at the time they were aware of the risk.

"I'm going to tell the world – money does not buy happiness," LeGrande said in August. "When you sleep at night, the problems are still there. The money stuff, who cares about the number."

"I feel like burning [the money]," he said.

Pace said the state's courts take violations of confidentiality agreements seriously.

"Confidentiality is one of the key benefits of a settlement agreement," said Pace, adding ,"It is the policy and practice of Georgia courts to strongly uphold a settlement."

Parris, LeGrande and Kemp declined to comment on the letters received this week. Each has announced plans to write a book, with Parris and LeGrande telling the AJC they were collaborating on a tell-all that will reveal details of their relationship with Long.

Parris and LeGrande, along with two other former New Birth Missionary Baptist Church members, filed a lawsuit last September alleging the charismatic pastor "uses monetary funds from the accounts of New Birth and other corporate and non-profit corporate accounts to entice the young men with cars, clothes, jewelry, and electronics."

Each alleged that, once they reached the age of consent, Long coerced them into sexual relationships.

Kemp surfaced later and was included in the settlement deal announced in late May after months of mediation.

Through a spokesman, Long has consistently denied the allegations. Following the announcement of the settlement, the bishop, 58, released a statement saying the agreement was made "to bring closure to this matter and to allow us to move forward with the plans God has for this ministry."

Calls to Drew Eckl & Farnham and to the bishop's spokesman seeking comment were not returned.

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