19 children to remain in state custody

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/March 21, 2001

Municipal Judge Elaine Carlisle ordered six House of Prayer members held on bonds ranging fron $4,000 to $20,000 pending trial on criminal charges they participated in or allowed whippings of two children last month.

Another church member, Sharon Duncan, was charged with cruelty to children, according to Altanta police. She was being held without bond today pending a preliminary appearance.

At another hearing, a juvenile court judge delayed hearing testimony on whether 19 children taken from church members earlier this month should remain in state custody because of the abuse allegations. Six of the cases were dismissed because of a technical error.

A hearing to determine whether those cases should go forward was scheduled for Friday. The remaining cases were delayed until later this month at the request of the parents, who said they were not prepared to defend themselves.

The whippings were administered at the urging and direction of Rev. Arthur Allen Jr., police Investigator C. Dean testified during the parents' preliminary hearing on the criminal charges. One parent, James Smith, told Carlisle that the beatings were so common he had lost count of how many he had seen.

Children being punished were suspended in the air by their hands and arms and beaten with switches, sticks or belts, Dean said. Photographs shown to the parents in court showed welts that Dean said were between 1 and 3 inches long, including one she described as the shape of a belt buckle.

While acknowledging their punishment had left marks on the children, the parents denied that they had caused any injuries or that they had done anything wrong. Allen said he and his church will be vindicated.

"I hope we are charged and I look forward to a trial by jury," he said. -- Michael Pearson

Defendants have criminal records

Four of six Atlanta church members charged in child beatings have prior criminal records, a judge said at their first court appearance this morning.

Municipal Court Judge Elaine L. Carlisle ordered the six held on bonds ranging from $4,000 to $20,000 and sent the case to Superior Court.

Their prior records included, she said:

  • A simple battery conviction in 1981 against James Smith, now charged with one count of cruelty to children

  • Convictions of David Duncan Sr. for criminal trespass, battery, armed robbery and aggravated assault. He faces two counts of cruelty to children. He also was arrested ona homicide charge in 1977.

  • Two burglary convictions of Emanuel Hardeman, who is charged with two counts of cruelty. He was convicted of burglary in 1984 and 1986, battery in 1993 and child abandonment in 1995.

  • The church's pastor, the Rev. Arthur Allen, was convicted in 1993 of a misdemeanor child abuse charge involving the beating of a 16-year-old church member.

At today's hearing, police Investigator C. Dean said members of the House of Prayer held the 7- and 10-year-old children of two church members in the air and beat one with a stick and the other with a belt, leaving welts and scars. The defendants said the beatings were common.

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