A fourth man alleges that when he was a teenager, he had sexual relations with Bishop Eddie Long.
Meanwhile, Long, during a Friday conference call with supporters, said he was “under attack,” WGCL-TV reports.
“We will arise through this situation, and go forward, and we are moving forward,” WGCL quotes Long. The station reports that Long said he had to watch his words because of the lawsuits. The popular Lithonia pastor did not take questions and asked his followers to pray for his wife, four children and his church, New Birth Missionary Baptist.
“I have never dealt with anything like this before,” Long told them, as reported by WGCL-TV, which monitored the conference call.
His latest accuser, Spencer LeGrande, claims he was 17 when he began a sexual relationship with Long while accompanying the bishop on a trip to Nairobi, Kenya.
LeGrande, of Charlotte, N.C., alleges in a civil suit filed Friday in DeKalb County that Long gave him an Ambien, a popular prescription sleep aid, followed by a “prolonged hug,” kissing and rubbing, according to the suit.
The suit claims the two shared a bed for the remainder of their trip.
“Bishop Long categorically denies the charges,” church spokesman Art Franklin said Friday. “We believe that it is unfortunate the young men have chosen to take this course of action. The defense team will review the complaints and respond accordingly at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum.”
LeGrande, like the three other young men who’ve filed suit against Long, is represented by attorney B.J. Bernstein. Two of the alleged victims, Maurice Robinson, 20, and Anthony Flagg, 21, were linked to a June robbery of Long’s personal office at the DeKalb church. Robinson and Anthony Boyd, who were captured on surveillance cameras, took an iPod, iPad and jewelry, according to a police report. Flagg was never charged.
Channel 2 Action News reports Long interceded on their behalf, telling DeKalb Assistant District Attorney Dan Geary he wished to “show compassion” and drop charges.
The case is still pending, said a spokesman for the district attorney.
Bernstein said her clients were angry at Long and seeking retaliation after learning he was involved with other men.
In the latest suit, Bernstein alleges Long “uses 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.”
Spencer LeGrande was 15 when he met Long, the suit alleges. LeGrande and his mother were among the founding members of Long’s satellite church in Charlotte, N.C., Bernstein told the AJC.
Their first meeting was an emotional one, according to the suit. LeGrande, moved by one of Long’s sermons, approached the pastor and began to cry. Long hugged the 15-year-old, assuring him, “I got you” … “I will be your dad,” the suit states. Soon after they began talking regularly by phone.
“Long would become angry if LeGrande failed to call Long on a frequent basis,” according to the suit.
LeGrande alleges the bishop told him to call me “dad.” Like two of the other young men claiming Long coerced them into having sex, LeGrande’s father was not actively involved in the youth’s life.
“[LeGrande] would call [Long] dad in front of me,” Spencer’s father, Eddie LeGrande, told the AJC Friday. “That would hurt me.” He acknowledged rarely seeing his son but said their relationship began to mend when the boy was 11.
But eventually, the elder LeGrande said, Long drove a wedge between father and son.
“He was doing all these things for him. I couldn’t compete,” said Eddie LeGrande, adding he had no clue of his son’s alleged sexual relationship with the bishop. But looking back, he said, “There were red flags.”
Eddie LeGrande said he rarely saw his son after the teen left North Carolina for Atlanta. Long encouraged the move following a second trip to Kenya, the suit alleges. LeGrande agreed, abandoning a potential college basketball career to attend Beulah Heights University.
The boy’s mother, Deborah LeGrande, wrote the bishop thanking him for looking after her son, according to the suit.
LeGrande, who says he was showered with gifts, including a Dodge Intrepid, was expected to “have no girlfriends.” In return his tuition and expenses at Beulah were covered, the suit alleges.
The freshman college student was allowed to live, rent-free, in the Harwell House, owned by another New Birth minister.
After a few months, LeGrande was moved into a church-owned community center on Parsons Road. The suit alleges the two had sex in that home along with other church properties, including the bishop’s private office.
Their relationship crumbled in early 2009 as LeGrande became “disillusioned and confused by Long’s actions and began pulling away from [the bishop],” according to the suit. Around that time, LeGrande dropped out of Beulah University and sought to distance himself from his spiritual mentor.
“From the Spring of 2009 up through October 2009, Long continued to contact LeGrande,” the suit states.
Long is charged with breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, fraud, infliction of emotional distress and other counts based on sexual acts. LongFellows Youth Academy, a co-defendant in the suits filed earlier this week, is not named in the latest filing.