Accused cult leader Eligio Bishop turns down plea deal before opening statements

Fox 5 Atlanta/February 22, 2024

By Tyler Fingert

Dekalb County, Georgia -- The highly anticipated rape trial that will determine the fate of alleged cult leader Ali Bishop got underway Thursday in DeKalb County. Prior to the trial, prosecutors extended a plea deal to Bishop. However, Bishop chose to decline the offer, opting to proceed to trial.

Inside the courtroom, the opening statements began just before 11 a.m. Prosecutors portrayed Bishop as a man wielding absolute power within his alleged group called "Carbon Nation." According to the state, this power allowed Bishop to exert control over the members, asserting that in March 2022, he assaulted a woman attempting to leave the group. Following the alleged assault, prosecutors claim Bishop posted what is known as "revenge porn."

Former Carbon Nation cult member takes stand

Prosecutors called the victim to testify as the first witness.

"He grabs my hand and as he is taking me into the other room, I am crying out, ‘No,’" the victim testified Thursday.

The woman who says she was raped by Bishop detailed in court for the first time what she says happened in March 2022 when she tried to leave his alleged cult Carbon Nation for the third and final time.

"He basically was trying to convince me to sleep with him," the alleged victim said.

"How did you respond," the prosecutor asked,

"I said no," she responded.

The woman says her membership in the group started off fine, but eventually she noticed violent outbursts. When she wanted out, she says Bishop wanted to sleep with her one last time. She said she told him no repeatedly before finally relenting and saying "Okay".

"I wasn't able to go, I felt like I couldn't," the alleged victim testified. "I felt powerless."

During opening statements, prosecutors painted Bishop as a man who held all the power in the group, and he posted sexually explicit videos of her as an act of revenge for leaving.

Eligio Bishop's attorney challenges rape charges

The defense vehemently denied the allegations, arguing that all interactions were consensual. They emphasized the importance of distinguishing between consensual relationships and rape, stating that the victim never initially characterized the incident as rape in her statements. During Bishop's preliminary hearing, his attorney described it as a "he said/she said" situation.

"You will hear again from the former members that this defendant had his choice of the women in the group, it was understood," said Michael Coveney, a Senior DeKalb County Assistant District Attorney. "Nobody said no to the king."

"She described making love, and we're all … are adults," said Robert L Booker, Bishop’s defense attorney. "There's a wide discrepancy from someone making love versus someone being raped."

The victim says during the alleged assault she felt powerless and had no choice.

"He said shut up, you're my (expletive), you're my property, you’re not going anywhere," the alleged victim testified.

The prosecution has started introducing sexually explicit videos that they say were posted without her consent. The victim calls those videos "humiliating."

As of now, the alleged victim's identity is being protected due to the sensitive nature of the sexual assault case. Bishop faces a potential life sentence without the possibility of parole.

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