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Topic: The rise and fall of Rev Henry Lyons, National Baptist Assoc
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El Supremo

The voting was barely over before a coup was being planned. There were some that had predicted that Rev.Jemison was going to make a bid to circumvent the rules on tenure and they were correct. After his failure to retain power, Jemison began working to invalidate the results. Jemison fought to regain his position and arrange to have his hand picked successor, W. F. Richardson be voted in as President at the next convention.

While President Clinton was at the convention ,the Jemison supporters were holding post -election meetings at the Windsor Court Hotel designing strategies to overturn the election of Lyons. The agreement was for Lyons to meet Jemison at Jemison's Baton Rouge office on September 29th for a transfer of all financial records and bank accounts. The next day Lyons would meet with his new Board.

However,Jemison never planned to make the transition of power as he and the faction backing him were determined to maintain control over both the convention and all financials.
Post Sat Mar 10, 2018 2:16 pm 
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El Supremo

Lyons wanted an independent accounting odf all convention assets, liabilities and programmed commitments. This included the funding and management of the American Baptist College and World seminary, th finances of the Baptist World Center and agreements like their AT&T Long Distance Service and more.

Meanwhile there was another closed door meeting being held in Baltimore, Maryland where 7 state convention delegates agreed to join in the filing of a lawsuit aimed at keeping Lyons from taking office. Alabama took the lead as 3 of Alabama's State Convention headquarters held meetings.

THey filed their lawsuit on September 29,1994 with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The attorney they selected was R. Kenneth Mundy,who had been the defense attorney for Marion Berry. The suit asked to set aside the election results and restore power to Jemison. The Alabama State Baptist Convention was led by Rev. Felix N. Nixon.
Post Sat Mar 10, 2018 2:36 pm 
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El Supremo

The lawsuit sought to prevent Lyons from taking office and was not to be heard until January 6, 1995.

The Louisiana Weekly printed the intent of the Jemison/Nixon faction as being a means of preventing Lyons or any "outsider' from having access to the books and records. I was alleged there were many unauthorized and questionable transactions contained in the records. The plan was to keep Jemison in office for the interim, let him resign and Richardson would be the new acting president until the election in 1995.
Post Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:10 pm 
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El Supremo

The Voice, The newspaper of the National Baptist Convention, had been silenced for over two years. Located on Fenkell in Detroit, the editor Dr. Joel Ward dedicated the October 1994 edition to the new President.

Dr. Lyons gave details on the lawsuit:
"I would be remiss if I didn't give you some exact information. First of all, I don't want anybody here being unruly, or unchristian about our brothers and sisters in the state of Alabama. It is not the entire convention in Alabama just seven men basically who were led on by the president, Dr. F.N. Nixon, who enjoined the convention.

The lawsuit says that Dr.jemison was to restrain from installing me as President. It prevented him from installing me. What I pointed out to the judge at that hearing was that I was in fact installed already.I was installed on the 12th day of September. So what they were trying to stop had already, in fact,taken place.
Post Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:30 pm 
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El Supremo

Our constitution does not call for installation. It does not. This was pointed out and the judge accepted it. Whenever the constitution does not specifically call for an installation or the passing of the gavel, then whenever the election is held,that is when you start your tenure. I was called president-elect from Thursday until Sunday, but the constitution says that I was President when the vote was announced.

Lyons went on to say the court recognized him as the sitting president. He then said they had successfully unseated the attorney Jo Fleming, who was representing Jenison. Lyons called the positioning of Dr. Jemison as both plaintiff and defendant a friendly or "cozy"collusion. Lyons pointed out that Nixon and Jemison both wanted the same thing and that was to get him out and Jemison back in.

An attempt was made to remove the temporary restraining order because a payment had to be made on October 15 and with the TRO in effect they could not raise the funds.
Post Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:48 pm 
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El Supremo

Lyons told of a meeting with Jemison on September 11th, the Saturday following the election. Jemison advised him that a $650,000 payment was due an there was only $250,000 with which to pay it. Jemison wanted a joint appeal for the remaining $400,000 to pay the bill. Lyons refused the offer of a joint appeal.

When the attorney mentioned the bill, the judge indicated she would have Jemison pay it. Upon being told there was not enough money , the judge emphatically state he did not believe it. After ordering the attorney for Jemison to confer with Jemison on her phone about the bill,the judge was informed the bill would be paid and there was enough money.

Lyons was ordered to open a new account.
Post Sat Mar 10, 2018 4:00 pm 
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El Supremo

By December 1994, the Voice was reporting that Lyons was finally able to receive the checkbooks and records. Lyons and some of his cabinet went to Baton Rouge on November 3 and were briefed on the financial affairs of the National Baptist Convention.
Stating that many attending the convention were concerned about the election Jemison apologized for not having more funding. Jemison apologized for the funding coming in slow and almost nothing at all.

The convention in New Orleans yielded $600,000. $315,000 went to the mortgage on the World Center. In total there was $47,000 realized. The convention still owned land in Tennessee that the government paid them not to farm.
Post Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:15 am 
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El Supremo

"WE ARE THE BIGGEST, THE BADDEST, AND THE BEST" was the mantra Lyons used as he traveled to spread his vision for the convention in 1995. Other points in his vision included stopping the fighting and hatred among those in the convention. The love for one another should include the schools of ABT, Selma University and Arkansas Baptist College, said Lyons, as they were financially near closing their doors.

Lyons also challenged 1,000 National Baptist Churches to open alternate schools with a curriculum that includes life skills and old fashioned values. He said the goal was to "reach them and endear them to the Lord Jesus Christ before the gangs recruit them for the devil's work".
Post Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:31 am 
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El Supremo

DETROIT GIVES $50,000, MICHIGAN TOTALS $68,000 read the Voice headline after President Lyons visited Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Detroit. A reception was held t Corinthian Baptist Church in Hamtramck. The Presider was the Rev. Dr.Avery Aldridge of Foss Avenue in Flint.

Greetings were received from :
Mayor Dennis Archer
City Councilman Gil Hill
County Executive Ed McNamara
Wayne County Commissioner RicardoSoloman
Rev. Johnnie Saulsberry, President, Michigan Progressive Convention
Rev. Samuel Bullock, Michigan Progressive Convention
Mrs. Essie bailey, President, Women's Aux., Wolverine State convention
Mr. Leola Ramsey, President, B.M.& E Convention
Congresswoman Barbara Rose Collins
and more
Post Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:46 am 
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El Supremo

The Voice stated over a thousand attended to hear Lyons speak on an obscure topic of Elim from the Book of Exodus 15:7. Calling it great preaching territory,the Voice stated Lyons spoke of Elim as a resting place between Egypt and the promised land.

"He reminded us that we have the social ills of our African-American Community especially our children and incarcerated men. Finally, he emphatically stated that we will no turn over our young African-American Men to Louis Farrakhan."
Post Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:59 am 
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El Supremo

Dr. Lyons was a charismatic speaker and drew large crowds to his speaking events. He spoke at Antioch also. His dramatic messages made for some great photos as well as having a stirring impact on his audiences.
Post Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:06 am 
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El Supremo

Church leader co-owns lavish home with embezzler
Wife allegedly sets house on fire when she finds out
July 10, 1997
Web posted at: 10:01 p.m. EDT (0201 GMT)
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CNN) -- The personal drama surrounding the head of the country's largest black church organization grew more tangled Thursday, with the revelation that he owns a $700,000 waterfront house in Florida with a woman -- not his wife -- who is a convicted embezzler.

And on Monday, Deborah Lyons , the woman who is the wife of the Rev. Henry J. Lyons, president of the 8-million-member National Baptist Convention USA, was charged with destroying property and setting a fire inside the same home, which sustained $30,000 in damage.

Rev. Lyons, the pastor of the Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, owns the home in the exclusive Tierra Verde section of the city with Bernice V. Edwards.

The St. Petersburg Times reported Thursday that Edwards was convicted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1994 of embezzling more than $60,000 in federal funds from an alternative high school.

Edwards, then executive director of the school, was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to pay $32,652 in restitution, court records show.

According to records cited by the Times, the National Baptist Convention helped pay her restitution for the embezzlement conviction.

Minister owns Rolls-Royce, boat
On Thursday, the New York Times also gave details of Rev. Lyons' allegedly lavish lifestyle, reporting that he owns a Rolls-Royce, two Mercedes-Benzes, a 23-foot pleasure boat and other property in addition to the Tierra Verde home. Edwards is co-owner of the Rolls-Royce, the newspaper said.

Lyons has been in Africa on a church-related trip and has not yet commented about his relationship with Edwards. The New York Times reported that Edwards was traveling with Rev. Lyons, who declined comment when reached by phone in Nigeria.

He and his wife are scheduled to appear at a press conference Friday.

Police records say Deborah Lyons allegedly set fire to the house after she discovered records listing her husband and Edwards as its co-owners. But she later told the St. Petersburg Times the fire was accidental and she had known about the home previously.

Records show Lyons aware of Edwards' criminal past
Court records in Wisconsin and Florida reveal a financial relationship between the minister and Edwards, the Florida newspaper reported.

In March, Edwards wrote a $25,000 check to a Clearwater company as partial payment for jewelry, including a 20.06-carat "Princess Cut Diamond." The check was written on an account shared by Edwards and Lyons. It bounced.

In October 1995, Edwards' lawyer asked a federal judge to release her from probation, pointing to her job as "National Public Relations Director" for the convention.

"The leaders of the National Baptist Convention and in particular Dr. Henry J. Lyons, its president, are fully aware of the criminal conviction of Bernice Jones and her sentence in your court," her attorney, Franklyn M. Gimbel, wrote in a letter to the judge. (Edwards, now 40, went by the name Bernice Jones at the time.)

"In order to assist Ms. Jones to fully meet all of her responsibilities under the sentence, the National Baptist Convention has advanced funds on a periodic, regular basis to Ms. Jones to address her restitution obligations," Gimbel said.

The school from which Edwards was convicted of embezzling money, Quality Skills Building Center, contracted with the Milwaukee public school system in the early 1990s to provide education services under Learnfare, a government program that penalizes welfare recipients if their children don't go to school.

According to prosecutors, Edwards repeatedly dipped into school funds in early 1992 for her own needs. She spent $5,600 on furs and other items, $3,800 on clothes, $1,000 for central air conditioning, $5,100 for a car, $3,000 for another car and $2,400 on car repairs.

Arthur Reid, the school's chairman, embezzled $30,000 to help pay for a funeral home he owned and took thousands more for other personal expenses, court records show.

The school closed in 1992. Edwards was indicted the next year. As part of a plea agreement, she admitted guilt to the federal embezzlement charge and promised to cooperate with prosecutors against Reid, her co-defendant. Reid later received a prison sentence.
Post Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:10 am 
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El Supremo

A Baptist Church Scrutinizes Its Leader's Lavish Life Style - The New ...
Jul 29, 1997 - When Henry J. Lyons was only 12, his family minister told him that he would one day become president of the nation's largest black religious ... ''Unless we can get a full, complete audit of all the convention's financial activities,'' Dr. Butts said, ''and a complete separation of the personal finances of the ...

A Baptist Church Scrutinizes Its Leader's Lavish Life Style

When Henry J. Lyons was only 12, his family minister told him that he would one day become president of the nation's largest black religious denomination, making him a powerful and nationally respected figure among millions of Baptists across the country. So it was with the air of a man certain of his command that he ascended the familiar pulpit of Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church on a recent Sunday, his baritone voice resonating.

''The church is not a museum for saints,'' he declared in a sermon to more than 300 approving congregants in St. Petersburg, Fla. ''It's a hospital for sinners!''

Despite Mr. Lyons's confident tone, questions have been sweeping through the denomination he leads, the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Inc., since the disclosure that his wife set fire on July 6 to a waterfront house she believed he shared with another woman.

The arson has laid bare Mr. Lyons's lavish way of life and his close relationship with a woman who has a history of theft, debt and aliases. But more than that, it has provoked an extraordinary amount of public criticism and soul-searching within one of the most prominent religious associations in the country.

Baptist leaders are questioning the group's finances and saying that the latest controversy is another example of how the denomination has squandered its potential as a major force on religious and civil rights issues.

Referring to a history of autocratic leadership, the Rev. Moses Javis, of Jacksonville, Fla., a minister who has pushed for change, said past presidents would justify an action by saying that it was God's will, a potent claim among the devout. ''In other words, the president becomes the Pope,'' Mr. Javis said, ''and it shouldn't be that way.''

The Rev. Calvin O. Butts 3d, senior minister of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, said, ''Many of us have been arguing about the fact that at this time in the life of African-Americans, we need accountable leadership.''

Dr. Butts, looking ahead to a meeting of the denomination in September, said he would not challenge Mr. Lyons ''about his personal life'' but wanted to know more about church finances.

''Unless we can get a full, complete audit of all the convention's financial activities,'' Dr. Butts said, ''and a complete separation of the personal finances of the president and the convention by an independent auditor, then we need to think about changing leadership.''

Influence Sapped By Internal Clashes

By rights, the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. would seem to have all the elements of a political and religious force. With an estimated eight million members, it is the fourth-largest denomination in the country and is by far the largest predominantly African-American religious body. It is a loose association of 33,000 autonomous churches that together support a religious publishing house, domestic and foreign missionaries, and provide money for several colleges and seminaries.

As a testament to these numbers, the denomination has been assiduously courted by politicians, including President Clinton, who appeared at the convention last fall. The church helped Jesse Jackson's Presidential campaign in 1984, almost propelling him to victory in the Democratic caucus in Virginia.

But over the years, its influence has seemed sapped by internal clashes over autocratic leaders and allegations that it was wasting financial resources.

In 1961, as the civil rights movement entered an intense phase of struggle against the forces of Southern segregation, the denomination was convulsed by an electoral dispute so emotional that fistfights broke out at the annual meeting. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Gardner C. Taylor and other young ministers left to found a new organization, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, out of frustration with their inability to oust the denomination's president, the Rev. J. H. Jackson.

More recently, in the early 1990's, as conservatives rallied public sentiment against affirmative action programs, the convention was preoccupied with feuding over some decisions by its president, the Rev. Theodore J. Jemison. He had chosen to build a $12 million headquarters in Nashville, to side with Mike Tyson after the boxer had been charged with rape, and to award the denomination's highest spiritual honor to the boxing promoter Don King.

Even though Mr. Lyons is entangled in questions of impropriety now, he ran as a reformer when he was elected to a five-year term in 1994. In the campaign, he lambasted the incumbent, Mr. Jemison. ''It's like Haiti,'' Mr. Lyons said. ''We have church government at the Papa Doc level.''

A Laborer's Son Who Knew His Destiny

A laborer's son who was born in Gainesville, Fla., Mr. Lyons served as a pastor in Georgia in the 1960's and became pastor of Bethel Church in St. Petersburg 25 years ago.

He has called the convention's presidency his destiny.

''As a student in Atlanta at the Morehouse School of Religion,'' he told Ebony magazine in 1995, ''I received my absolute confirmation from God himself that I was to be president.''

As president, Mr. Lyons has notable achievements. He has reduced the debt on the new headquarters building, acted as a peacemaker during racial unrest in St. Petersburg, cultivated a public relationship with President Clinton and preached a message of black self-help.

''Dr. Lyons is a uniquely gifted person,'' said the Rev. Manuel Sykes, 40, pastor of another Baptist church here. ''God has invested a lot in Dr. Lyons.''

The recent questions about Mr. Lyons's life and personal associations arose after July 6, when firefighters responded to a report of smoke inside a waterfront house in St. Petersburg's wealthy Tierra Verde section.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Department said that Mr. Lyons's wife, Deborah, had admitted setting several fires in the house, which caused $30,000 worth of damage, after she discovered documents that showed the house was co-owned by her husband and another woman, Bernice V. Edwards. Mrs. Lyons, 49, told investigators that she found her husband's clothes there and thought that he was having an affair.

Free on bail, Mrs. Lyons soon recanted, telling The St. Petersburg Times that she accidentally ''dropped a match'' while searching for documents her husband had asked her to pick up. She pleaded not guilty to arson and burglary charges. Mr. Lyons has described Ms. Edwards, 40, as a business partner, a family friend and an officer of the denomination.

Five days after the incident, Mr. Lyons held a news conference in which he denied any impropriety and called the waterfront house ''a guest house'' for the denomination that was not used as living quarters.

Mr. Lyons then called the denomination's board into emergency session, and on July 17 they gave him a unanimous vote of confidence.

A Woman With a Past, And a Rolls-Royce

Ms. Edwards, who is single, met Mr. Lyons through church activities in Milwaukee and worked on his campaign for denomination president, said her lawyer, Franklyn M. Gimbel. But she has a criminal past, using half a dozen Social Security numbers and names. Federal court records in Milwaukee show that she pleaded guilty in 1994 to conspiring to embezzle more than $60,000 in Federal money from an alternative high school she directed.

The court records show that Mr. Lyons hired Ms. Edwards as the denomination's national public relations director in 1994. In a 1995 letter to the court, her lawyer wrote that the National Baptist Convention ''advanced funds'' to help Ms. Edwards pay $32,600 in restitution.

Mr. Lyons and Ms. Edwards share a checking account and co-own the $700,000 house in Tierra Verde and a 1987 Rolls-Royce. Ms. Edwards and Bethel Baptist Church are registered as owners of a 1997 Mercedes-Benz.

Mr. Lyons and his wife own a $285,000 house and other real estate, two Mercedes-Benzes, and a 23-foot pleasure boat, but the asset that has stirred the most interest is the house he owns with Ms. Edwards.

Pinellas County property records show that Mr. Lyons bought it in 1996 with a $455,000 loan. Four days later, he transferred a half-interest to Ms. Edwards. In property documents, he listed himself as unmarried.

In an outgrowth of the arson inquiry, the Pinellas County sheriff's office is investigating the propriety of more than $28,000 in checks written to the denomination that were cashed over 10 months at a store in St. Petersburg. Grady Irvin, Mr. Lyons's lawyer, said Mr. Lyons had not authorized the cashing of the checks, which were cashed by a convention secretary.

Mr. Lyons's lawyer said state investigators have also issued subpoenas for banking records involving certain convention accounts, but he is challenging their release on privacy grounds. He said investigators were especially interested in a ''Baptist Builders'' fund he said was used for various purposes, including paying off convention debt.

It is not the first time that Mr. Lyons has been caught up in an investigation of financial irregularities. In 1991, he agreed to pay $85,000 in restitution to a bank to avoid criminal charges after he was investigated for Federal bank fraud, said Mac Cauley, a spokesman for the United States Attorney's Office in Tampa, Fla. Mr. Lyons completed one year of probation under a pretrial diversion program for first-time nonviolent offenders, Mr. Cauley said.

Mr. Lyons declined a request for an interview for this article. At the news conference, he declined to answer questions but accused the news media of racial bias, of resenting him because he is a financially successful black man.

''I have never yet met many,'' he said, ''that understood that you can have a little money in this country and not push or sell drugs.''

Mr. Lyons's statement was unusual because he had previously avoided the language of polarization.

He told a reporter last year that racism ''is nowhere near as bad as when I was a boy.'' He has repeatedly denounced Louis Farrakhan, minister of the Nation of Islam, as a ''hatemonger.'' When racial unrest broke out in St. Petersburg in 1996, Mr. Lyons urged reconciliation.

As an apparent alternative to the Nation of Islam, as well as to the Promise Keepers evangelical men's movement, Mr. Lyons formed Trusted Partners in 1995, an organization sponsoring religious rallies for black men.

A String of Problems, And Money Questions

In his three years as president, Mr. Lyons has faced many problems. After the election, several Alabama Baptist ministers filed a lawsuit alleging election fraud, but the suit was thrown out a month later.

But by then, another crisis loomed. Mr. Lyons said he had found only $38,000 remaining in the denomination's bank accounts but there was an immediate need to pay $515,000 on the debt of the headquarters building, the Baptist World Center in Nashville.

Within the denomination, opinions have been mixed about the center. ''Some felt it was a great thing to have such a monument dedicated to future generations,'' said the Rev. Joseph Warren Walker 3d, a Nashville minister who used to work in the denomination's publishing house. But others, he added, ''speak of how many other, better uses could have been made of all that money.''

He credited Mr. Lyons with attacking the building's debt. ''Every meeting I have attended, Dr. Lyons has brought in an accounting of the convention's finances,'' Mr. Walker said. ''And he has made it clear at every convention that all financial roads for the National Baptist Convention lead to paying the World Center off.''

Mr. Lyons said last year that he had cut the $5 million debt on the building by at least a third. But beyond such general numbers, denominational finances, and Mr. Lyons's compensation, are closely held information. Neither the convention's treasurer, the Rev. Stacy R. Shields, nor its executive director, the Rev. Willie D. McClung, returned calls seeking comment.

Mr. Irvin, Mr. Lyons's lawyer, said the minister receives a salary from his church, which he did not disclose, and an annual stipend from the denomination of $80,000. ''Dr. Lyons makes good money,'' Mr. Irvin said. ''I don't know why people think pastors should have no money.''

The Rev. E. V. Hill, a Los Angeles minister and former vice president at large in the denomination, said Mr. Lyons's salary would probably be supplemented from other sources, none of them unusual for a nationally prominent black Baptist pastor. ''That's a cultural difference'' with white religious bodies, he said.

These sources, he said, would include gifts from church members, consulting work and ''love offerings,'' special collections taken up for a visiting preacher in the churches in which he speaks.

Dr. Hill estimated the denomination's annual budget at about $6 million. But he said most of that was allocated to publishing, missionary work and educational grants, so the president and his board of directors have little discretionary money.

Even if Mr. Lyons has made some missteps, the members of Bethel Church appear to be solidly behind him.

''He's a man, and I don't expect him to be better than any other man,'' said one member, Gaynette Morgan, 44, after hearing him preach July 13. ''He doesn't owe me an explanation,'' she added. ''He has a personal relationship with the Lord.''
Post Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:15 am 
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El Supremo

The Rev. Henry Lyons: The Trial - Tampa Bay Times
Ongoing coverage by the St. Petersburg Times in Florida of the career and federal trial of Rev. Henry J. Lyons, minister of Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church and president of the National Baptist Convention USA, complete with timeline, profiles, and photos.
Post Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:19 am 
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El Supremo

The Trial
A Ministry in Question: pre-trial coverage from the Times

From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
House in foreclosure; accounts, assets of Lyons, others seized

Lyons saga leads to prison
Rev. Henry Lyons, leader of the National Baptist Convention (NBC),
Lyons wipes away tears during testimony from friends and associates pleading for mercy in his sentencing. [Times photo: Brian Baer]
Americas largest black Baptist church group, saw his troubles begin in July 1997 with arson at a home he is alleged to own with a woman other than his wife. After a series of reports by the St. Petersburg Times and an investigation by state prosecutors, Lyons was charged with racketeering and grand theft. He pleaded innocent. A year after that fateful fire, federal prosecutors indicted the St. Petersburg pastor, accusing him of fraud, extortion, money laundering, conspiracy and tax evasion. In February, a jury convicted Lyons of the state charges. On March 17 -- one day after resigning his NBC post -- Lyons pled guilty to five federal charges.

From the beginning, the St. Petersburg Times has reported on the Lyons case, which is chronicled in this comprehensive archive of stories (some with pictures).
Post Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:20 am 
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