After verdict, acquitted pastor gives exclusive interview
BENTON TOWNSHIP, Mich.-- After a not-guilty verdict, a local Benton Harbor pastor sat down with ABC57 to talk about the outcome.
Pastor Carlton Lynch who leads the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Benton Township, found himself facing felony charges for allegedly inappropriately touching a woman.
That witness claims he tried to pay her $20 to make the problem “go away.”
All the while, Lynch maintained his innocence, and last week, a Berrien County jury agreed with him.
Now, he plans to go back to preaching, and said his congregation is steadfast, but said he also wants his name out of the news for a while.
"It appeared to me that we were not in trial, we were in a church meeting," Lynch said.
His attorney in the trial that wrapped on Thursday, Jessica LaFond, is pleased with his acquittal.
"It was the right decision, we were happy with the jury. They listened to all the evidence and they came to the right decision,” LaFond said. “And it was hard for Pastor Lynch, a year going through the wringer."
Lynch was on trial for allegedly groping a woman and trying to pay her off with $20, something Lynch said never happened.
"When you use the words evidence, there was no evidence," he said.
"The jury came to the decision that they did was because the complaining witness's story varied over the years," LaFond said.
The jury’s verdict was not guilty, and Lynch wants his name-- and reputation-- cleared.
"It would have been a lot not just on me, but it's also been a lot on the church that's still with me, from the charges, during my time of incarceration, and now," Lynch said.
Because he allegedly yelled at the “victim” in court in front of the judge, Lynch served 58 days at the Berrien County Jail for contempt of court for violating a no contact order.
“It was horrible because I'm bougie, I'm used to eating at the finest restaurants, and to get a sack every day that's bologna at 5 p.m.,” Lynch said. “When I went to Walmart the other day and I saw a pack of bologna, I mean, I almost started crying, because that was everyday."
He describes jail as the worst experience of his life, but also his best, because he learned what it can be like for inmates without the support system he has.
“I don't want to help them, I have to help them," he said.
Lynch said he will continue leading the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, and said the first Sunday after his not guilty verdict was jam-packed. He said he's also learned some lessons.
"Tell the kids in my church, 'you can't just ask pastor for money anymore, you gotta go through my team,’” he said. “So now, it's taught me that I gotta put up boundaries."
Pastor Lynch said a celebration is planned for this weekend to commemorate the church’s 100th anniversary.