Detroit News, Oct. 23, 2002
By Maureen Feighan / The Detroit News
ROSEVILLE — They come from all over the region — troubled people seeking solace from addictions, afflictions, even demons.
After 17 hours of praying, fasting and meditating over two days, a minister supposedly expels whatever possesses them, setting off emotions so intense that aides stand by to prevent anyone from getting hurt.
As strange as such ceremonies may sound, exorcisms — acts to dispel evil spirits — will likely play a key part in a trial scheduled to begin Thursday in Macomb Circuit Court that promises to be one of the county’s most bizarre cases handled in decades.
The Rev. Gennaro Joseph Piscopo, pastor of Evangel Christian Church, a nondenominational church in Roseville since 1989, was charged in February with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Prosecutors contend Piscopo fondled two middle-aged women during exorcisms in 1995 and November 2001.
However, Piscopo’s attorney said the minister touched the women only on the shoulders during the exorcisms, called “deliverances” by parishioners.
In fact, lawyer George Michaels of Eastpointe contends as many as 120 people were present at one of the alleged incidents, while another procedure happened in Piscopo’s living room with his wife and several other people present. He likens the deliverances to an open confession of sins.
Michaels said during the actual deliverance — which culminates a 17-hour process — the minister counsels each afflicted person and then taps them on the arms to release whatever is possessing them. A tapped person sometimes lashes out with emotion or aggression.
“It’s very intense,” he said. “The touching on the arms is like a trigger. I talked to one woman who said even though one person was being restrained, she started strangling the minister working on her.”
Mark Rousseau, a former Evangel parishioner, said he attended 20 to 30 deliverance services at Piscopo’s church.”
Rousseau said he believes church leaders are manipulative and conducting the deliverances for the wrong reason. Rousseau left Evangel in 2001 because he believed it had become cult-like and that church leaders were meddling in his marriage.
Piscopo faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.