DA drops case against six House of Prayer members

Associated Press/December 24, 2002

Atlanta -- District Attorney Paul Howard said he will not prosecute six members of the House of Prayer, a northwest Atlanta church where there were allegations of child beatings.

Howard said Monday that convictions of five other church members - including the pastor, the Rev. Arthur Allen Jr. - were "primarily responsible'' for beatings that authorities said severely bruised two boys.

Erik Friedly, Howard's spokesman, said prosecutors soon will file papers to drop charges of cruelty to children and aggravated assault against Eddie Barnett Jr., 26; Michael Oglesby, 28; James Smith, 45; David Wilson, 31; Ricky Wilson Sr., 33; and Yolanda Wilson, 29.

Beginning in February 2001, social workers removed 49 children from the homes of six church families, including several who were forcibly taken from their parents. Just one remains in state custody.

Allen and 10 other church members were indicted in January. A jury convicted five of them in October. They were sentenced to 20 to 90 days in jail.

Four of the church members Allen, who is 70; Emanuel Hardeman, 37; Sharon Duncan, 41; and Charles Ogletree, 31 remain in the Fulton County Jail.

A motion for a new trial for all five is pending, said Manny Arora, one of the lawyers they hired after they were convicted.

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