A granddaughter of a preacher embroiled in lawsuits over sexual and financial wrongdoings went public this week with shocking testimony she gave months ago in a court deposition.
Depositions, testimony given by witnesses preceding a trial, are typically not public record in DeKalb State Court, but Penielle White talked about hers to a Fox 5 WAGA-TV reporter this week.
White said her grandfather, Bishop Paulk, touched her and a friend Jessica Battle, in “inappropriate areas” years ago when the two girls were spending the night together at Paulk’s house. White was about 8 at the time.
Paulk denied the allegations in a statement through his attorneys Friday.
He also denied them when Battle sued him in 1991 for molestation, which she claimed included fondling, oral sex and sex.
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Paulk settled the suit out of court in 2003, to cut legal costs, he said.
White’s deposition is part of other, long-running lawsuits by Mona and Bobby Brewer, former staff members at Paulk’s church, which used to be called Chapel Hill Harvester in DeKalb County. It was a nationally known church with more than 10,000 members and a TV ministry.
Mona Brewer claims Paulk used his position to coerce her into a sexual relationship. Bobby Brewer, her husband, claims he lent the church money and was never repaid.
Paulk reacted through his attorneys to his granddaughter’s statements. “Bishop Paulk denies the allegations made by Penielle. He is saddened and confused by the interviews of his daughter [Beth Bonner] and granddaughter,” it says.
The statement went on to say that Paulk had seen the Bonner family over Thanksgiving and hopes for reconciliation.
Beth Bonner also gave a television interview, apologizing to the families who had been hurt by the events and saying she believes the claims of several women that Paulk had sex with them.
White and Bonner did not return phone calls.
The Rev. D.E. Paulk now heads the church, which is called the Cathedral at Chapel Hill. Attendance has fallen to fewer than 2,000.
He returned to take the reins of the church more than a year ago.
He grew up believing he was Bishop Paulk’s nephew, but learned this summer through a court-ordered DNA test that he is actually his son.
D.E. Paulk’s mother is married to Bishop Paulk’s brother.
D.E. said he can say little because of the Brewers’ suits and because the bishop is being criminally investigated in Cobb County, suspected of lying in a deposition.
In his deposition, Paulk said he has had sex only with his wife and Brewer.
D.E. Paulk said, “I am inheriting someone else’s issues. That does not mean that I condone [anything bad that has happened],” he said.
“But we are saddened that this has gotten so ugly and so many people have been hurt by all of this.”