Rev. Lyons asks for alimony from wife
By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rev. Henry J. Lyons, imprisoned on state racketeering and grand theft charges, wants the wife he is suing for a divorce to pay him alimony.
The St. Petersburg preacher also thinks his wife, Deborah Lyons, should take responsibility for part of the $6-million debt a judge ordered Lyons, 60, to pay for his thievery as president of the National Baptist Convention USA.
In court papers filed last month, Lyons does not indicate how much alimony he seeks or how much of the debt he thinks his wife should assume.
Attorney Richard McKinley, who represents Lyons, said on Monday that the minister decided to seek alimony in reaction to Deborah Lyons' seeking alimony from him. Lyons filed for divorce last year.
"This is more of a defensive position," he said. "Once she started making alimony noises, we looked at it and decided it wasn't fair."
He added: "I think a case can be made that the $6-million benefited her, too."
Mrs. Lyons' attorney did not return calls seeking comment. And Mrs. Lyons could not be reached.
A Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge will ultimately decide the issue at a trial that is not yet scheduled.
Mrs. Lyons, 54, says in court papers that she works as a counselor earning $43,000 annually. Her husband is serving a 5 1/2-year prison sentence and isn't scheduled for release until 2004. He has no income and uncertain job prospects upon his release, his lawyer said.
McKinley said his client's convictions do not, by law, affect a judge's decision on alimony.
At about the time he filed for divorce, Lyons released a statement saying, "I have not seen my wife since March 31, 1999. I see no reason to prolong any more anxiety and waiting. I feel obligated to free her from the pain and mess I have caused."
Problems in the Lyons marriage became public in July 1997, when Mrs. Lyons was arrested for setting fire to a $700,000 waterfront Tierra Verde home that her husband had purchased with another woman, Bernice Edwards.
The arson, which caused about $30,000 in damage, started a two-year investigation into Lyons and his financial dealings using the National Baptist Convention's name. He was convicted in 1999.
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