Former Together Church pastor Micahn Carter sues woman who accused him of raping her

Yakima Herald-Republic [Yakima WA]

January 14, 2024

By Donald W. Meyers

Former Together Church pastor Micahn Carter will find out in the next month if his defamation suit against a woman who said he raped her can proceed.

At a Jan. 9 hearing on motions from both Carter and the former church employee, Yakima County Superior Court Judge Kevin Naught said he would issue a ruling on whether the suit can be dismissed under a state law that protects people from frivolous defamation suits.

Naught also let stand an order sealing declarations that delved into the woman’s prior sexual history.

The Yakima Herald-Republic typically does not publish the name of sexual assault victims without their consent. While the woman has not sought criminal charges, she has said that Carter raped her in an office at the North Fourth Street megachurch. The building now houses the Champions Centre church.

Fall from grace

Carter and his wife, April, were lead pastors at Together Church for 13 years. He resigned from the church in early June 2019, describing an “inappropriate incident” that he blamed on previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder and saying that he had gone into treatment.

He then went to the Church of the Highlands in Alabama for a “ministerial restoration” program, where he also joined the church’s staff. According to court documents, Carter’s restoration program called for him to not engage in public ministry for a year, and after that he was to go through a year of “supervised ministry.”

Carter joined the Alabama church’s staff and preached there in 2020.

In July 2021, the woman sent a letter to Chris Hodges, the pastor of the Alabama church, describing how Carter had raped her, according to court documents, telling Hodges that “I have been carrying this for two years too long” and she had no expectations for what he would do with this information.

She also wrote a blog article about how she was raped at Together Church in April 2019. Not mentioning Carter by name, the woman described her attacker as the lead pastor of the church and said he started making inappropriate comments to her and grabbed her, culminating with the rape inside an office at the church during an event.

Hodges announced a couple of days later that in light of “new allegations” the Carters had resigned from the church, which was no longer involved in his rehabilitation.

Carter has said, according to court documents and his Yakima attorney, Tonilynn Savage, that he and the woman had consensual sex.

Suit filed

In October 2022, Carter filed a defamation suit against the woman in Alabama, seeking at least $500,000 in damages, alleging that he lost publishing contracts and speaking engagements because of the allegations.

That case was dismissed with prejudice because of a lack of jurisdiction, according to court documents. The woman argued in the Alabama case that the rape occurred in Yakima, she had no ties to Alabama and that she could not afford to defend a lawsuit filed in Alabama.

The dismissal with prejudice bars Carter from refiling the suit in Alabama.

In July 2023, Carter filed suit in Yakima County Superior Court alleging the woman had defamed him with the rape allegations, seeking unspecified damages as well as attorney’s fees and any other payments the court awards.

The woman was served in September and given 20 days to respond. In October, Carter sought to have a default judgment in his favor, noting the woman’s failure to respond.

She asked for additional time to respond, as she had not obtained legal counsel at that time. She has since retained Jennifer Chung of Seattle-based Davis, Wright and Tremaine.

Squelching speech

Chung is seeking to have the case dismissed under the Uniform Public Expression Protection Act, a state law that targets frivolous lawsuits that are filed to silence someone who is speaking on a matter of public concern.

The law pauses further action on the lawsuit, including the exchange of evidence between the parties, while the court determines if the suit was frivolous.

If the case is deemed frivolous, it would be dismissed and the defendant would be awarded attorneys’ fees and expenses. But if a judge determines the motion was filed to cause an unnecessary delay, then the plaintiff would receive attorney’s fees and expenses and the case would proceed.

“Some will say that this is not a public concern, but UPEPA applies when a person exercises free speech on a matter of public concern,” Chung said. She said a workplace sexual assault, especially one that happens in a church, is a matter of public concern.

The woman’s blog post discussed what happened to her at the church where she was employed, the betrayal she experienced and how it shook her religious faith, which she was able to rebuild, Chung said.

Savage, however, said UPEPA does not protect someone who falsely accuses someone of a crime.

“How can she look at the court with a straight face and say that this person raped this person?” Savage asked. “We clearly don’t agree.”

Carter has failed to demonstrate that he and the woman had consensual sex, Chung said.

“Washington requires active consent. Silence is not consent. The victim is not required to say no,” Chung said.

Savage said that the woman’s actions suggested consent and that she said she was raped two years later.

The UPEPA process, Savage said, is being used to delay the lawsuit and prevent her from obtaining information from the woman and others involved in the case, including witnesses who would support Carter’s case.

Questionable statements

Chung is seeking to seal some statements submitted to the court, including a request for the woman to provide information that delves into her sexual history. She characterized those filings as an attempt to smear her client.

Savage said the information was needed to establish the woman’s history and to challenge her credibility in making statements against Carter.

William Bright, the attorney who represented Carter in the Alabama case and is serving as co-counsel in this case, said in a Dec. 15 hearing before Naught that the woman has made accusations against Carter and that it was only fair for Carter to respond.

“There’s no way to pull that back and seal it,” Bright said. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

“Can’t you also say that two wrongs don’t make a right?” Naught responded.

Chung said Bright did something similar in Alabama seeking the woman’s sexual history and was challenged for it there as well.

Naught said he cannot base his decision on what happened in Alabama, including the dismissal of the case with prejudice.

Naught has ordered some of the documents sealed and allowed for some discovery in the case but said the information cannot be added to the court file without permission from the court.

Reach Donald W. Meyers at

Donald W. Meyers

Crime and Courts Reporter