Jury imposes $500K verdict on pastor accused of rape after he refused to apologize to victim
Pastor Lewis Clemons of Kingdom Awareness Ministries International in Columbus, Georgia, could have settled a civil case against him for zero dollars if he agreed to acknowledge and record a public apology for allegedly sexually abusing and raping his former congregant, Lequita Jackson. He refused and went to trial.
On Wednesday, a jury in the Superior Court of Muscogee County ruled in favor of Jackson and imposed a $500,000 verdict against him.
“Lequita Jackson is a wonderful client and it was an honor to provide her with her day in court,” Jackson’s attorney, Jeb Butler of Butler Law Firm, said in a statement to The Christian Post on Thursday. “Lewis Clemons is a liar and a fraud, and I hope neither my client nor I have to see him again for as long as he lives.”
Fellow attorney Morgan Lyndall praised Jackson for her strength in standing up to Clemons and noted that she hopes “the verdict sent a message that sexual assault and rape are never OK.”
In 2017, Jackson and another of Clemons’ former congregants, Lakisha Smith, accused the pastor in a civil lawsuit of using his position as a spiritual leader to sexually abuse them.
"He was a child molester," said Jackson at the time, alleging that Clemons began abusing her at 15.
Now 33, Jackson, who is married with two children of her own, said she was so traumatized by her experience, it took her five years before she was able to open up to her husband about what she endured.
"He was a sexual predator who needed to be stopped. I just kind of accepted it at that age," she said.
In their statement to CP on Thursday, Jackson’s lawyers explained how she wasn’t really interested in money. She simply wanted Clemons to own and properly apologize for the trauma he caused her.
In a letter to Clemons, Jackson's lawyers said:
" ... To seriously discuss settling this case, you would have to be willing to make a video statement that: 1. acknowledged all of your sexual misconduct …; and 2. genuinely apologized for that sexual misconduct; and 3. acknowledged that you have seriously harmed many, many women who trusted you as their spiritual leader.
“Ms. Jackson would then watch the video. She would then decide, in her sole discretion, whether the video sufficiently met the requirements above. She would have sole control over the distribution of the video. She would be authorized to share the video publicly and with anyone that she chose.”
“Our client, Mrs. Jackson, offered in writing to settle the case against Clemons for zero dollars if he would record a video in which he acknowledged his sexual abuse and apologized for it. He refused. So we took the case to trial. Our client and several other victims told the truth about Lewis Clemons’ sexual abuse and rape of themselves and others. Their testimony was detailed, impactful, true, and emotional,” the attorneys said in their statement to CP.
Butler and Lyndall argued at the trial that Clemons would “find a girl from a troubled background, gave them positions in his church so he could spend more one-on-one time with them, made increasingly sexual requests of them, justified his actions with scripture, asked them to ‘stimulate his nipples,’ gave them a ‘body anointing’ in which he had them strip down so that he could rub oil all over their bodies.”
He allegedly raped and sexually abused some of his victims who were younger than 16 at the time.
Clemons, who revealed she was an abuse survivor before finding solace in the church, said in recorded testimony that Clemons took advantage of her after she received the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues.
He told her she would need to do a “body anointing” where he paid special attention to her breasts and her buttocks before lying on top of her unclothed body to keep the power of the Holy Spirit properly sealed in. Jackson said Clemons told her that his activities were biblical, but he denied he told her so during a deposition in 2019.
“In our initial meeting about the body anointing … he read a few Scriptures to me to try to justify the situation. … I do remember he had me read the book of Acts and the other Scripture. I cannot recall off the top of my head, but it had to do with the laying on of hands,” Jackson said.
Clemons claimed he learned about “body anointing” from an older pastor when he was younger and said he tried it with a woman who was suffering from cancer once and she was healed after he anointed her breast.
Jackson explained in a previous report that Clemons’ activities with her over time resulted in two pregnancies which Clemons paid for her to abort while posing as her guardian.