Eddie Long, presiding bishop of Georgia’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, is seeking to recoup nearly $1 million in settlement money from male ex-parishioners who have accused him of sexual impropriety.
Jamal Parris, Spencer LeGrande and Centino Kemp, three of the five men who accused Long of sexual coercion, received letters last week from the Atlanta law firm Drew Eckl & Farnham, LLP. The letters allege that the three young men violated the confidentiality terms outlined in the settlement agreement with Long and the Lithonia-based church, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC).
But, just how far Long’s attorneys are willing to go is still uncertain.
“No one’s going to turn over the money just simply because you’ve asked for it,” Hayden Pace, Atlanta litigator told the AJC. “You’re going to have to earn it back by establishing your right to it in the courts.” Pace went on to say that Georgia courts make it a practice and a policy to uphold a settlement.
“Confidentiality is one of the key benefits of a settlement agreement,” he said.
The AJC received information from people involved in the settlement but are not authorized to speak publicly that the firm is seeking at least $900,000 already paid to the three accusers.
It’s no secret that Parris, LeGrande and Kemp have all gone public. In a telling August interview with the AJC, LeGrande, who said he was 15 when he met Long at a New Birth branch church in Charlotte, N.C. had this to say:
“I’m going to tell the world-money does not buy happiness,” LeGrande told the AJC. “When you sleep at night, the problems are still there.” Jamal Parris even called the bishop a “predator” and a “monster” in a television interview with Atlanta’s Fox TV affiliate WAGA.
They’ve also announced plans to write a book to disclose details about their relationships with Long. They have not commented on the recent letter.
The highly publicized scandal began last September when Parris and LeGrande filed a lawsuit with two other former New Birth Missionary Baptist Church members, accusing Long of using “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.”
Parris, LeGrande, Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg claimed they had all been coerced into sexual involvement with the bishop. Klemp surfaced later with similar allegations.
Long and the young men reached an agreement with an undisclosed financial settlement in May. Though bishop later said that he’s moving forward, questions remain on whether the deal was the best decision.
This recent development on the sex scandal emerges on the heels of the settlement of another legal case involving Bishop Eddie Long. Earlier last month, Long reached a settlement in a property lawsuit that alleged he and two partners in West Indies Holding Co. LLC defaulted on a $2 million bank loan. The loan was for a commercial property in Jonesboro, Ga.