ATLANTA, Ga.– The first court hearing in the Bishop Eddie Long sexual misconduct case was held Friday, and the case is headed for settlement talks. Lawyers for the bishop and the four young men who have filed suits against him said they want to avoid a trial and resolve the dispute in mediation early next year.
During a status conference held Friday, lawyers for both sides gave a road map of what’s going to happen throughout the case, when it’s going to happen and why it’s going to happen.
On the way into the courthouse, Bishop Eddie Long’s attorney Craig Gillen, and the young accusers’ attorney, B.J. Bernstein, had little to say. But after a short status conference, one thing was clear: Both sides were ready to resolve the case.
“The number one thing is we are ready to move forward in this case,” said Bernstein.
Jamal Parris and three other young men have filed sexual misconduct lawsuits against the popular Bishop and his 10,000-seat New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. The lawsuits allege the bishop sent the three young men provocative pictures and lavished money and gifts on the then-teenagers, while having sex with the young men.
Bishop Long has filed an answer to all four lawsuits, claiming in bold letters on the first page the claims of sexual misconduct are not true.
In all four of the lawsuits, Bishop Long admitted he was a mentor to a number of young men, trying to build stability in their lives. He admitted to traveling with the young men and at times sharing a room with them.
In an exclusive interview, Parris said the Bishop lavished money, gifts, and support in exchange for sex and always wanted the young men to consider him their “daddy.”
“You finally have a father that you’ve always wanted for and always dreamed of. He would just walk away from you if you don’t give him what he wants. So you end up turning into something you never thought you would be, which is now a slave to a man that you love,” said Parris in the exclusive September interview with FOX 5’s Dale Russell.
In the lawsuit, Bishop Eddie Long admitted young men in the church called him “daddy” or sometimes “granddaddy,” and he specifically denied in every lawsuit that he ever had sex with any of the four young men.
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Lawyers for both sides say they want to avoid a trial and resolve the dispute as quickly as possible.
During the status conference, both sides said they want to try to avoid trial, and have a mediator resolve the explosive allegations. Judge Johnny Panos set a February date for mediation. If the case is not settled in mediation, expect the first of possibly four separate trials in July or August.
Attorneys also said that during the course of the case, the court will hear from expert witnesses who will talk about the relationship that should be there between a professional, like a bishop, and a parishioner, like the young men who have filed suit against him.
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