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Guilty plea in church sex scandal

January 17, 2008|From the Associated Press

ATLANTA — The 80-year-old leader of a megachurch pleaded guilty Wednesday to lying under oath about his sexual affairs and was sentenced to 10 years' probation.

Archbishop Earl Paulk, who has been in ill health, was also fined $1,000 on a single felony count.

The charges stem from a 2006 deposition Paulk gave in a lawsuit against him, his brother Don and the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Church by former church employee Mona Brewer, who said she was coerced into an affair.

In the deposition, Paulk said under oath that the only woman with whom he had ever had sex outside his marriage was Brewer.

But the results of a court-ordered paternity test revealed in October that Paulk is the biological father of his brother's son, D.E. Paulk, who is head pastor at the church.

As part of Brewer's lawsuit, eight women have given sworn depositions that they were coerced into sexual relationships with Earl Paulk.

"It was a fair and just resolution of the case for a man who has lived his whole life and done wonderful things but made a mistake," said Paulk's attorney, Joel C. Pugh. "He's ready to move on."

Paulk turned himself in to authorities Tuesday night after a warrant for his arrest was issued the previous day. The warrant was the result of a months-long inquiry by Cobb County Dist. Atty. Patrick H. Head and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Head called the sentence "certainly adequate" for Paulk, who had never been charged criminally before.

Paulk faced as many as 10 years in prison.

At its peak in the early 1990s, the church, which Paulk and his brother founded in 1960, claimed about 10,000 members and 24 pastors.

The church built a Bible college, two schools, a worldwide TV ministry and a $12-million sanctuary outside Atlanta.

Today, membership is about 1,500; the church has 18 pastors, most of them volunteers. The Bible college and TV ministry have closed.

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