Man who alleged sex with the O.C. network’s leader ‘likely’ violated an order not to discuss it, but evidence was inadequate, judge rules.
An Orange County judge dismissed a contempt charge Monday against a man accused of violating a court order when he talked to the Los Angeles Times about his alleged sexual encounter with televangelist Paul Crouch.
Before the defense presented any evidence, Superior Court Judge Robert J. Moss ruled that Crouch’s lawyers did not have enough proof to support their case against former Trinity Broadcasting Network employee Enoch Lonnie Ford.
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“While it is likely that Mr. Ford did violate this order,” Moss said, “there has been inadequate evidence.”
However, while some legitimate ministries and teachers (those who adhere to the orthodox teachings and practices of historical Christianity) appear on TBN, the network promotes such an incredible amount of heretical material – including extremist Word-Faith teachings – that it is often referred to as “The Blasphemy Network.”
Another judge had barred Ford in April 2003 from talking to the media about his allegation that Crouch seduced him seven years earlier at a network-owned cabin near Lake Arrowhead.
Reporter William Lobdell cited Ford’s friends and court documents in a Sept. 12 article that first revealed the allegations. A story that ran 10 days later included statements from Ford and photographs of the 41-year-old Lake Forest man taken by a Times photographer.
Crouch has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Lawyers for Costa Mesa-based Trinity Broadcasting, the world’s largest Christian network, said Ford violated Superior Court Judge John M. Watson’s April 2003 injunction.
“[The order] was simple: Don’t talk,” said attorney Anna Mendiola. “From the beginning of this case, before this injunction was ever filed … the defendant threatened to violate the court’s order. He planned it all along.”
But lawyers for Ford countered that just producing the articles in court did not prove that Ford had spoken to the media.
“Crouch’s lawyers failed quite miserably to establish certain facts,” attorney Robert Hartmann said.
The judge dismissed the case at Ford’s lawyers’ request after the network presented its witnesses, who included a lawyer from each side and a longtime friend of Ford’s that the Times interviewed for the Sept. 12 article.
Moss ruled in an earlier hearing Monday morning that neither the photographer for the Sept. 22 article nor the reporters who worked on the stories would have to testify. In asking the judge to throw out the subpoenas for the Times journalists, lawyer Kelli Sager cited California’s shield law protecting reporters from disclosing sources and materials used in assembling an article.
Trinity Broadcasting lawyers said after the contempt hearing that the reporters’ testimony would have helped their case.
“Had they been here to testify, there would have been a lot of information that came out,” said David Loe. “We’re disappointed that the judge didn’t seem to take enough time to consider either of these matters fully. There’s ample evidence that Mr. Ford spoke in clear violation of [the 2003] injunction.”
He said he would consult Crouch about appealing the ruling.
TBN first became aware of Ford’s allegations in 1998, when he threatened to sue the network because he said he had been unjustly fired. Crouch settled with Ford for $425,000. Among the terms was a secrecy clause preventing Ford from discussing his allegations.
In April 2003, Ford handed a copy of a manuscript titled “Arrowhead” to Crouch after walking onto the set of TBN’s Costa Mesa studio during a “Praise-a-thon” fundraiser. Later that month, Watson prohibited Ford from discussing the manuscript publicly, saying it violated the 1998 agreement.