Special reports

The Trial
A Ministry in Question
: pre-trial coverage from the Times

Related links
National Baptist Convention USA

From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
House in foreclosure; accounts, assets of Lyons, others seized

Lyons saga leads to prison

Rev. Henry Lyons, leader of the National Baptist Convention (NBC),
Lyons wipes away tears during testimony from friends and associates pleading for mercy in his sentencing. [Times photo: Brian Baer]
America’s largest black Baptist church group, saw his troubles begin in July 1997 with arson at a home he is alleged to own with a woman other than his wife. After a series of reports by the St. Petersburg Times and an investigation by state prosecutors, Lyons was charged with racketeering and grand theft. He pleaded innocent. A year after that fateful fire, federal prosecutors indicted the St. Petersburg pastor, accusing him of fraud, extortion, money laundering, conspiracy and tax evasion. In February, a jury convicted Lyons of the state charges. On March 17 -- one day after resigning his NBC post -- Lyons pled guilty to five federal charges.

From the beginning, the St. Petersburg Times has reported on the Lyons case, which is chronicled in this comprehensive archive of stories (some with pictures).

Latest stories

Lyons gets back into pulpit at Tampa church
Now out of prison, the Rev. Henry Lyons will serve as interim pastor of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church. [3/27/04]

Lyons wants old job back
Bethel Metropolitan went from one mess to another. Can it forgive and forget? [2/11/04]

Navigating his way through a new life
The Rev. Henry J. Lyons now works at a Polk funeral home as part of a work release program and dreams of soon returning to St. Petersburg.[9/6/03]

Edwards guilty of violating her probation
The former aide to the Rev. Henry Lyons will serve nine more months in prison. [9/28/02]

Rev. Lyons asks for alimony from wife
He thinks she should take responsibility for part of the $6-million debt he was ordered to pay. [7/2/02]

Lyons plans to resume ministry
Although his release from prison is more than a year off, he's looking for a new church to lead. [6/21]

Edwards to remain free on bail
Bernice V. Edwards, former aid to the Rev. Henry Lyons, is accused of violating probation following her conviction on tax evasion. [6/6]

Lyons' aide runs afoul of probation
In less than a month after her release from federal custody, Bernice Edwards was back to her old tricks, officials say. [5/5/02]

Accomplice in Lyons case is released
The former publicist convicted in the Rev. Henry Lyons scandal is freed from federal custody. [7/28]

Lyons, not wife, sought divorce
The preacher, who is serving a 5 1/2-year prison sentence, says he wants to "free her from the pain ... I have caused." [4/11]

Lyons files for divorce in Polk
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rev. Henry J. Lyons, a St. Petersburg minister and former president of the National Baptist Convention USA, has filed for divorce from his wife, Deborah, the woman who set the fire that led to her husband's imprisonment. [4/6]

Lyons' replacement has outstanding warrants
Church members say they didn't know their new pastor had problems with the law when they elected him 200-49. [12/5]

Church ousts Lyons as pastor
Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church replaces its leader of 25 years, now in prison, with a man with legal troubles in his past. [12/2]

Bethel needs to let Lyons go
The church should not hold the pulpit open for the imprisoned pastor's return, as he is asking it to do. [10/31]

Excerpts from the Lyons letter
From Henry Lyons' letter to Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church:

Lyons' former church debates his leadership
The convicted minister has kept in touch with his church in St. Petersburg, but some in the congregation want to move on. [9/22]

Mrs. Lyons' ordeal ends quietly
Deborah Lyons, wife of the fallen minister, is released early from her probation for setting fire to a Tierra Verde home. [8/25]

Lyons will get prison closer to his family
The convicted former Baptist leader will be moved from a Lowell prison to one in Polk County. Whether he sought the transfer is uncertain. [5/31]

Lyons colleague pleads guilty to reduced charge
Burleigh Ashby Hobson avoids trial on 10 federal counts by pleading to a single felony. [1/22]

Lyons' lawyers working to reduce minister's prison term
LARGO -- Lawyers for Baptist leader Henry J. Lyons are working on two fronts to shave up to a year off his 5 1/2-year prison sentence. [11/5]

Edwards sentenced to prison in tax evasion
Because of her infant's poor health, the judge did not order the former National Baptist Convention publicist taken into custody immediately. [10/25]

Edwards' lawyers say kids need her at home
After years of being dogged by criminal charges, Bernice Edwards finally has Justice. [10/23]

Accomplice files 5th claim of bankruptcy
Bernice Edwards, who soon will be sentenced on federal tax evasion charges, filed in Milwaukee. [9/22]

Women's role in male-led church
The officials and ministers are mostly men, but the denomination is hardly alone in that. [9/9]

  • Time for a new president
    TAMPA -- Thousands of delegates from around the country go to the polls today to choose a new leader and to try to resurrect the tattered image of the National Baptist Convention USA.

Preacher makes plea to succeed Lyons
A Los Angeles minister solicits support at the church of the former National Baptist Convention's president. [9/6]

Choice of Tampa has its critics
Complaints range from a shortage of perks and nearby hotel rooms to the choice of a location to please Lyons.

As NBC gathers, legacy lingers
The imprisoned Rev. Henry Lyons won't be among the thousands of Baptists gathering in Tampa this week, but his presence will be felt. [9/5]

Federal prosecutors drop Lyons appeal
TAMPA -- In a move that apparently concludes the criminal prosecutions of former National Baptist Convention USA president Henry J. Lyons, federal prosecutors have withdrawn their appeal of the 51-month prison sentence imposed on Lyons in June. [9/3]

GMAC sues Lyons, in prison, for car loan
Earlier this month the company filed a small claims lawsuit against the Rev. Lyons for the balance of his note. [8/27]

Lyons denied early release
ST. PETERSBURG -- They came to court Wednesday with pleas of mercy for the ailing body and spirit of the Rev. Henry J. Lyons. [8/19]

Supporters worried about Lyons' health
Letters seeking a reduced sentence describe an ill man. "I see a shell of a man," his daughter writes. [8/18]

Associate of Lyons accused of fraud
Burleigh Ashby Hobson is indicted on 10 federal charges involving Bethel Village, which was never built. [8/14]

For Lyons, no forgiving or forgetting
State prosecutors point to a 1991 apology as evidence the disgraced minister doesn't deserve a reduced sentence. [8/6]

Bid to reduce prison time calls the Rev. Lyons repentant
LARGO -- Attorneys for fallen Baptist leader Henry J. Lyons have asked a circuit judge to reduce his 5 1/2-year sentence on his state racketeering and grand theft convictions. [7/30]

Lyons' ex-mistress given probation
photoBrenda Harris also must complete 75 hours of community service and pay a fine for failing to report the commission of a crime.
[Times photo: Ken Helle] [7/27]

Appeal may add time for Lyons
The effort by federal prosecutors could extend the Baptist leader's time behind bars by more than two years, a lawyer says. [7/16]

Lyons' federal sentence won't add to jail time
Rev. Henry J. Lyons gets a punishment that will run concurrently with his state prison term. [6/19]

Lyons' victim seeking shelter from creditors
Loewen Group, which played a central role in the Henry J. Lyons saga, is $2.3-billion in debt. [6/2]

Lyons drops appeal, accepts responsibility
The Rev. Henry J. Lyons has abandoned the last shred of resistance against the criminal charges that landed him in prison and says he wants to take responsibility for his behavior. [6/2]

Foreman of Lyons grand jury sentenced
TAMPA -- The grand jury foreman who helped indict the Rev. Henry J. Lyons will himself do some prison time. [5/18]

Lyons appeals Florida conviction
The former head of the National Baptist Convention says several mistakes were made in his trial. [5/1]

Lyons' wife not allowed on visitor list
An attorney for the Rev. Henry J. Lyons says his client won't protest the rule. [4/30]

In final analysis, Lyons prosecutors praised
Members of the legal community say State Attorney Bernie McCabe, in particular, and federal prosecutors came out shining. [4/19]

Lyons serves his first two weeks in prison alone
Solitary confinement kept him safe as he awaited assignment, prison officials say. [4/14]

A knot of supporters gathered moments before Lyons made his appearance at Tuesday's news conference in St. Petersburg. [Times photo: Boyzell Hosey]
Brenda Harris rejects plea deal
The trial of Harris, the Rev. Henry Lyons' former paramour, begins next week. She faces eight federal charges. [4/9]

In prison, a preacher without a pulpit
The Rev. Henry J. Lyons, a preacher who once enjoyed a misbegotten life of great wealth, entered the Florida state prison system Thursday a pauper unable to bring with him even the most modest of possessions. [4/2]

Attorney says Lyons will retain a role with church
The pastor's name remains on the wall of Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church even though he is in prison.

Lyons begins 5 1/2-year
term on state charges

The former president of the National Baptist Convention is in the Pinellas jail awaiting transfer to a state prison [4/1]. Story

Lyons' future rests on prison decision
As he enters state court for sentencing today, he may leave in cuffs -- or in limbo. [3/31]

Despite convictions, Lyons casts his ballot
He might be a convicted felon, but the Rev. Henry Lyons still takes his civic duties seriously. [3/27]

Edwards enters 2 guilty pleas
In exchange for the pleas on tax evasion counts, federal prosecutors are dropping 23 other charges against her. [3/26]

Edwards expected to take plea deal
Henry Lyons' co-defendant is expected to plead guilty to tax evasion and pay back taxes on about half a million dollars. [3/25]

Cost of Lyons investigation over $95,000
The estimate of costs by the state attorney's office does not include the salaries of prosecutors and investigators.

Lyons admits list of wrongs
In exchange for his guilty plea, federal prosecutors drop 49 of the 54 counts against him and won't require him to testify against co-defendants.
Story [3/18]

Lyons pleads guilty to federal counts in plea deal
The Rev. Henry Lyons pleaded guilty Wednesday to five federal counts, including tax evasion and fraud, as part of a plea deal in which 49 other charges against the former National Baptist USA president were dismissed. [3/17]

'I hate that I've hurt so many people'
A repentant Rev. Henry Lyons gives up the presidency of the National Baptist Convention. [3/17]

Lyons plans another national apology
First, there was Connie. Now come Katie and Matt.

On TV, Lyons says: 'Let's get on with it'
The head of the National Baptist Convention USA says he disgraced his church and will resign today.

Mary Jo Melone
When God calls, with his hand stuck out

Whatever else may be said of the Rev. Henry Lyons, he is a con man of principle.

Report: Lyons to step down
In an interview to air tonight, the minister tells ABC News that it is time for the needs of the National Baptist Convention to come first. [3/15]

Lyons' lawyer asks out of trial

Lyons' federal trial scheduled to start April 7
TAMPA -- Jury selection in the federal trial of the Rev. Henry J. Lyons and two of Lyons' associates will begin April 7, U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. has decided. [3/10]

Lyons jurors file suits after losing their jobs
The two women allege that they were fired because of their jury service. [3/10]

Lyons, directors to meet to consider options
The Rev. Henry J. Lyons, after being urged by key supporters Monday night not to resign as president of the National Baptist Convention USA, will convene a special meeting of his board of directors on March 16 to discuss his future. [3/3]

Supporter urges Lyons not to resign presidency of NBC
A California minister says Henry Lyons didn't get a fair trial. [3/2]

Lyons gets handshakes, hugs at church
The Rev. Henry J. Lyons stops in at Bethel Metropolitan before his stepgrandmother's funeral.

Trial coverage from the Times

Pre-trial coverage from the Times


  ©Copyright 2006 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.