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National Baptist Convention USA

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

Lyons found guilty of
racketeering, grand theft
 
Aftermath of the Trial

Rev. Henry Lyons is flanked by his counsel as he hears the guilty verdict on Saturday, Feb. 27, 1999. [Times photo: Cherie Diez]

Rev. Henry Lyons, leader of the National Baptist Convention (NBC), 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 has 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.

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). The latest reports appear at the top of our Lyons Chronicles index.

photo
Taylor Langley, 6, swings on a courtroom gate Friday as she and others wait for a verdict in the racketeering trial of her grandfather, the Rev. Henry J. Lyons, and Bernice Edwards. [Times photo: Jim Damaske]
Latest stories
'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.
[3/17]

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.
[3/16]

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.
[3/16]

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
Grady Irvin says he can't defend the minister in April's federal trial, but observers doubt his motion will be granted.
[3/11]

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.
[3/1]

The verdict: Guilty
Jury finds Lyons guilty
The jury convicts the church president on all three counts but acquits his co-defendant. [2/28]
Howard Troxler: What this case was and wasn't truly about [2/28]
Jurors wavered on Edwards, but never on Lyons [2/28]
As critics seek resignation, backers offer their support [2/28]
With e-mails, TV stations didn't hesitate [2/28]
Emotion overcomes acquitted Edwards [2/28]
Now comes state trial's big U.S. twin [2/28]


Judge to jurors: Take a break
Jurors have deliberated for 12 hours in the racketeering trial of the Rev. Henry Lyons and Bernice Edwards. They'll continue this morning. [2/27]

Lyons' backers pray as jury begins work
With testimony done, Mrs. Lyons and Bernice Edwards come face to face, while supporters offer their prayers. [2/26]

As the case is closed, lawyers say their piece
The final arguments in the racketeering trial of Henry J. Lyons and Bernice Edwards ranged from tiresome to impressive, for both prosecution and defense. But not only did the defendants get their day in court, they probably got as strong a case as could have been made.

Lyons defense: no victims, no crimes
In closing arguments, attorney Grady Irvin asks why corporations never called the police over Rev. Lyons' failed deals. [2/25]

'Their creed was greed,' prosecutor says in closing
Henry Lyons and Bernice Edwards are compared to "Bonnie and Clyde" as their trial winds down. [2/24]

Slip lets jurors hear Edwards embezzled
LARGO -- After 24 days of trial, dozens of witnesses and hundreds of exhibits, jurors learned something about Bernice Edwards on Monday that had been kept carefully from their ears. [2/23]

Mary Jo Melone
One tough cookie, straight to the end

You've got to admire Bernice Edwards. [2/23]

'I was like a little kid in a candy store'
Bernice Edwards says that she made -- and spent -- a lot of money but did not steal any of it. [2/20]

In telling her side, Edwards says it all
The good news for Bernice Edwards, a/k/a Bree Jones, a/k/a Bernice Jones, is that she didn't do an awful job Friday of finishing up her side of the story, writes Howard Troxler.

Only one defendant speaks
Henry Lyons decides not to testify, and his lawyers rest their case. But Bernice Edwards is finally heard from. [2/19]

Lyons witness: Fund was no secret
Whether the Rev. Henry Lyons will testify remains uncertain as the defense nears the end of its case.
[2/18]

Lyons' lawyers want judge to clear path for testimony
Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer will rule later on whether prosecutors must stick to issues brought up by the defense.
[2/17]

Flu shortens Lyons session
Early witnesses, before court is adjourned for the day, include Henry J. Lyons' secretary. [2/13]

Judge Schaeffer's justice swift -- or else
"Sometimes I get cranky . . . I'm just trying to move things along," the judge, aware of her demeanor, tells jurors.

Date contradicts defense argument
A check date shows bank records were sent to auditors after Henry Lyons' wife set a house fire, not before. [2/12]

Defense: Lyons had carte blanche
Three Baptist officials testify that traditions are different in the black church and say Rev. Lyons didn't exceed his authority. [2/11]

Lyons denies he wrote letter
Henry Lyons takes the stand Tuesday, before the judge but not the jury, to testify about the authenticity of a piece of evidence in his trial. [2/10]

Lyons' banking records detailed
The prosecution's last witness describes how millions of dollars flowed through accounts controlled by Bernice Edwards and Henry Lyons. [2/9]

The women of Henry Lyons
His wife, Deborah, sat stoically behind him; co-defendant and alleged mistress Bernice Edwards a few feet to the left; and a third woman, Lyons' former secretary, was on the witness stand testifying about her own relationship with the pastor. Add in two other women who had affairs with Lyons and the cast of characters gets confusing. [2/9]

Executive says company put trust in Lyons
LARGO -- They were top executives of a $1-billion company, men with long careers in finance, operating in a world where the bottom line and accountability rule. [2/5]

Witness: numbers fabricated
LARGO -- Lynda Shorter thought the Rev. Henry J. Lyons simply possessed a great memory. [2/4]

photo
Renee Fagans testifies.
[Times photo:
Brian Baer]

Witness recalls boss's love for Lyons

A former aide of Brenda Harris says Harris helped Lyons compile a fraudulent members' list. [2/3]

Witness tells of secret checking account
She says hundreds of thousands of dollars were wired into a checking account she opened with Bernice Edwards. [2/2]

Ex-Lyons aide tells of rising doubts
The woman, who says she was the minister's lover, says she came to see him as "anti-Christian." [1/29]

Lyons prosecutors zero in on credit card deal
LARGO -- A year after Union Planters Bank lent $300,000 to the National Baptist Convention USA, someone at the bank noticed a disquieting omission in the latest convention financial statement. [1/28]

Money for burned churches opens Lyons trial testimony
Prosecutors allege that most of a $225,000 donation intended for burned churches in the South went to the Rev. Henry J. Lyons. [1/27]

Lyons portrayed as failed dealmaker, not law breaker
The Baptist leader is portrayed as a man courted by corporations, whose deals didn't always work out. [1/26]

Attorneys select jury for trial of Lyons, Edwards
The panel of six jurors and four alternates contains no African-Americans. [1/15]

Potential jurors down to 50 in Lyons case
Attorneys now will do more in-depth interviews to cut the pool down to a panel of six and three alternates. [1/14]

Lyons team might ask for venue change
LARGO -- Lawyers for the Rev. Henry J. Lyons are expected to ask today that the Baptist leader's trial be moved outside the Tampa Bay area, although the judge in the racketeering trial already has said that is unlikely. [1/13]

First jury candidates offer glimpse of reality
On the first day of selection, Judge Susan Schaeffer finds potential jurors don't know much about the case. [1/12]

It's time for Lyons to step into Caesar's arena
This morning, in a Pinellas County courtroom, the Rev. Henry J. Lyons will start the process of rendering unto Caesar. [1/11]

First task in Lyons case: find six jurors
Pretrial publicity raises questions of how easy will it be to find impartial jurors to judge the NBC president. [1/10]

Lyons' attorney a natural in court
"He's not afraid to tee it up and go to trial, and he wins more than he loses," a former prosecutor says. [1/4]

Edwards, Lyons to be tried together
A judge rejects a request to move Bernice Edwards' trial out of the Tampa Bay area. [12/16]

Pre-trial coverage from the Times

 

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