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Mobtown Beat

Tort Drama

Bethel A.M.E. Rape Victim's Lawsuit Moves Forward

Robert Bartlett
The Rev. Frank M. Reid III
Timothy D. Price III

By Van Smith | Posted 12/3/2008

Earlier this year, Baltimore was shocked by the case of Timothy D. Price III, the then 31-year-old music director of the large and influential Bethel A.M.E. Church who was arrested and pleaded guilty to having sex with a 12-year-old girl who was active in church activities he led. After his Aug. 1 sentencing, at which he received a seven-year prison term for second-degree rape, Price fell from the public eye. But the legal drama surrounding his crime has continued.

Weeks after Price's sentencing, College Park-based attorney Walter L. Blair was retained by the victim and her mother, Kimberly Poole of Baltimore, to sue Price, Bethel A.M.E., and its pastor, Frank M. Reid III, for $75 million in Baltimore City Circuit Court. The five-count complaint asserts that Bethel A.M.E. and Reid share responsibility for Price's crime. On Oct. 27, Judge Martin Welch allowed the suit to survive the defendants' dismissal motions. He removed some of the counts, but moved the suit into the discovery phase. Bethel A.M.E. and Reid now must join Price in providing Blair with requested information as the parties prepare for the next round of legal challenges, months away. Trial, if it comes to that, is scheduled for next October.

The surviving count charges "negligent hiring, supervision and retention," according to the complaint, and argues that the defendants failed in their duty "to use reasonable care" in hiring Price and authorizing him "to recruit and retain minor children," including the plaintiff. The other counts, which pertain to the victim's direct harm at Price's hands, were dismissed as they pertain to Bethel A.M.E. and Reid. Towson-based attorney Brian Goodman, who represents Price, declined to comment.

"There is absolutely no merit whatsoever to these allegations," says David D. Hudgins, an Alexandria, Va.-based attorney retained to defend Bethel A.M.E. and Reid, during a recent phone call. Hudgins predicts that "all claims will be summarily dismissed at the next opportunity."

"Price was specifically recruited to work with children--it was one of his duties to be youth pastor," Blair counters in a phone interview, adding that "we just think it is outrageous that a man of the flock would commit such an outrageous act and then suggest that the child consented--a 12-year-old--which is absurd."

Blair says he is independently investigating Price's background, and that documents he expects from Bethel A.M.E. and Reid will aid in the fact-finding effort. But Hudgins says "there's nothing there, there just are no facts" to support Blair's assertions in the lawsuit. "Having spoken with church leaders," Hudgins continues, "I can tell you that from our perspective, Mr. Blair is overly optimistic regarding his chances of success against my clients."

Plus, Hudgins says, "an interesting development in the case is the legal problems for the plaintiff's attorney." No sooner had Blair successfully fended off the dismissal of the Bethel suit than a federal indictment, filed Nov. 5, accused him of tax evasion and helping to launder a drug dealer's money. "I don't know how that will impact this case," says Hudgins.

Blair, who maintains his innocence of the criminal charges--even to the point of suing the federal government and its investigators to drop the indictment and award him $100 million in damages--says his efforts on behalf of Price's victim and her mother will not suffer. "There are no restrictions on me doing my work," he says.

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