James MacDonald charged with felony assault, battery in California

James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, speaks at the Pastors' Conference 2014, ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention's Annual Meeting, on Monday, June 9, 2014, in Baltimore, Md. | The Christian Post/Sonny Hong)

Former Harvest Bible Chapel Senior Pastor James MacDonald was arrested in California last month and charged with felony assault and battery against a 59-year-old woman after a traffic incident. 

According to a criminal complaint filed by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, the ousted Illinois megachurch pastor allegedly "personally inflicted great bodily injury upon" a woman named Barbara Bass in an incident last month.

The complaint, as quoted by The Roys Report on Wednesday, contends MacDonald "did willfully and unlawfully use force and violence" on Bass during the incident. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

MacDonald's attorney, Michael Pancer, said in a statement to The Chicago Sun-Times that his client "would never intentionally harm another human being."

"The charges as written are not accurate as to what took place. We believe the evidence will show Dr. Macdonald's intent and conduct was neither malicious nor correctly assigned in the charges filed. We look to the legal process to establish what did happen and remedy the situation lawfully," said Pancer.

On March 22, the City of Coronado Police Department posted to Facebook information about an incident that happened that morning involving "a 62-year-old man."

"At 10:15 am this morning, a 62-year-old man was attempting to parallel park his truck in the 900 block of Orange Avenue when he struck the vehicle parked in front of him, which was occupied by a 59-year-old woman," stated the police department.

"As the woman got out of her car to talk to the man, he jumped out of his truck and attacked the victim. As he was assaulting the woman, his truck rolled backwards striking the vehicle parked behind him."

According to authorities, witnesses nearby stopped MacDonald from leaving the scene, with police arriving to arrest MacDonald, having also reportedly found "a stolen handgun inside his truck."

"The victim was transported to the hospital with serious injuries. The roadway was closed for approximately 1 ½ hours while officers investigated the incident," the police department added. 

The Coronado Police Department confirmed to The Roys Report that the 62-year-old man in question was MacDonald. The allegedly stolen handgun doesn't appear to factor into the charges against MacDonald. According to Roys, MacDonald was booked into San Diego Central Jail in the afternoon of March 22 and released on $35,000 bail that night. 

His next court date is scheduled for June 14, according to The Sun-Times. 

A prominent preacher who founded the multi-campus Chicago-area megachurch Harvest Bible Chapel, MacDonald was fired from his position as lead pastor in 2019. Church elders cited "highly inappropriate recorded comments" he had made that was played by a local radio program.

In the audio footage, MacDonald was heard discussing things like planting child pornography on the computer of a Christianity Today executive and making crude remarks about journalist Julie Roys of The Roys Report, who had reported on allegations against him of financial misconduct, bullying and spiritual abuse. 

"Given that and other conduct under consideration, in accordance with the procedures in our Bylaws, Pastor MacDonald was removed as Senior Pastor and as an Elder of the church for engaging in conduct that the Elders believe is contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church," stated the elders at the time.

"This decision was made with heavy hearts and much time spent in earnest prayer, followed by input from various trusted outside advisors."

Around the same time that the radio comments were aired, a former worship leader at Harvest Chapel named Anne Green accused MacDonald of touching her inappropriately during a plane trip in 2005.

Harvest Chapel leadership released a statement at the time explaining that they had investigated the accusation and could not find corroborating evidence or eyewitnesses to back up Green's claims.

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