Former St. Louis Pastor Accused of Abuse in LA
By Tim Townsend
St. Louis Post-Dispatch [California]
November 22, 2006
A 17-year-old Los Angeles resident who said he was sexually abused two years ago by former St. Louis pastor and community leader Sylvester Laudermill Jr. filed a lawsuit against him Tuesday. It was the second civil lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of a minor filed against Laudermill and the African Methodist Episcopal Church in two days.
On Monday, a 25-year-old man from St. Louis filed a lawsuit against Laudermill in St. Louis Circuit Court alleging that the former pastor began abusing him in 1995 when he was 14 or 15.
The Los Angeles resident, who filed his suit as John Doe through his guardian Jane Doe, alleged that the abuse took place at Laudermill's most recent church, Ward AME in Los Angeles, in November 2004. That was the same month Laudermill started as pastor there after 10 years at St. Peter AME Church at Margaretta and Shreve avenues in north St. Louis.
There have been no criminal charges filed against Laudermill in St. Louis or Los Angeles. Lt. Emmanuel Hernandez of the Los Angeles Police Department said earlier this week that a police investigation there had been submitted to the Los Angeles District Attorney's office. Attorneys in that office did not return calls seeking comment Monday or Tuesday.
The St. Louis circuit attorney's office has been investigating allegations against Laudermill since spring. Ed Postawko, assistant St. Louis circuit attorney, said Tuesday that his investigation "is still ongoing."
The alleged victim in Los Angeles — who sang in the choir at Ward AME, where his mother was a volunteer, according to the lawsuit — said he was molested repeatedly by Laudermill. From 2004 through this year, the pastor "engaged in unpermitted, harmful and offensive sexual contact upon" John Doe, according to the lawsuit.
Besides Laudermill, both suits name as defendants the AME Church corporation, the church's board of incorporators, the fifth district of the church (which includes St. Louis and Los Angeles), its Bishop John R. Bryant, and St. Peter.
William A. Marsh, Jr., general counsel for the AME Church, said Tuesday that he had not seen the lawsuits and would not comment before he did.
The Los Angeles suit also names as defendants the AME Church's board of trustees, Ward AME, church elder the Rev. Norman Copeland and Laudermill's wife, Pamela Powell Laudermill. Neither Copeland nor Pamela Laudermill could be reached for comment.
Bryant defrocked Laudermill in May after internal church investigations in St. Louis and Los Angeles sustained the allegations of sexual abuse. In September, the church's judicial council overruled Bryant based on what it said were procedural errors in the internal investigations and reinstated Laudermill.
An attorney for the AME church, J. Stanley Sanders, said Tuesday that in a rehearing of the church's Los Angeles case against Laudermill last month, the investigative committee again sustained the allegations against the pastor. Consequently, Bryant defrocked Laudermill again, according to Sanders.
According to AME Church rules, Laudermill had 30 days from his second Los Angeles hearing to appeal. Laudermill's attorney did not return calls for comment.
John Doe's lawsuit faults the church for failing to protect him from Laudermill. "Despite the risk posed by defendant Laudermill," church leaders "continued to place him in positions in which he would have daily contact with children," according to the suit.
Bryant did not return calls for comment Tuesday, but he has consistently maintained that he did not know about the allegations at the time he transferred Laudermill to Los Angeles in 2004.