Pastor, civil rights leader found not guilty of criminal sexual conduct

Pastor Carlton Lynch of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Pastor Carlton Lynch of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Benton Harbor, Michigan. | Screengrab: YouTube/Pilgrim Rest

A Michigan pastor and civil right leader charged with criminal sexual conduct and bribery after he was accused of misconduct in two separate incidents thanked the judge and jury involved in his case after he was found not guilty last Thursday.

"The jurors of the court ruled favorably," Carlton Lynch, senior pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Benton Harbor told ABC57 in a statement. "I’d like to give honor to Judge Charles Lasata for presiding over the hearing, and also to the members of the jury. I’m glad this process has ended, justice has prevailed, and I can get back to caring and advocating for families of the Benton Harbor community." 

The charges against Lynch, according to The Herald-Palladium, were connected to allegations made against Lynch in 2018 and 2022.

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One woman alleged that Lynch touched her buttocks in 2018 while she was at her place of business. A police report cited by WNDU said that victim alleged that Lynch grabbed her buttocks with both hands as he left her place of business. She said she pushed him away and he asked her, “How much would it cost for this to go away?” before offering her $20.

The woman claimed she came forward with the allegations again last year and she was advised by a member of the church’s board to report Lynch to the police.

Lynch, who maintained his innocence throughout the case, said the allegations were driven by a faction in Benton Harbor who were seeking to oust him from his role because they did not like him.

The pastor did not leave the ordeal unscathed, however. He served a 45-day jail sentence earlier this year after he was held in contempt of court for violating a no contact order for yelling at the alleged victim in January after a preliminary hearing at the Berrien County Courthouse.

In a statement released by the Hills Law Offices, attorneys called his acquittal a “well-deserved win.”

“Attorney Jessica LaFond represented Pastor Lynch who remained steadfast in his innocence since charges were brought in October 2022. A three-day jury trial was ultimately the way that Pastor Lynch had to get to the appropriate result in this case,” the law office noted on Facebook.

“This case was a team effort by our Berrien County office, and we wouldn't have been able to succeed without the support of our team.  Congratulations to Pastor Lynch and Attorney LaFond on a well-deserved win!”

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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