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Reduced Sentence for Lyons Denied

August 18, 1999

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) _ A judge refused Wednesday to reduce the 5 1/2-year state prison sentence for the Rev. Henry Lyons, the former leader of a large and influential black church denomination.

Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer wasn’t swayed by scores of letters and pleas from pastors, church members and relatives seeking mercy for Lyons.

The judge said the sentence for racketeering and grand theft was fair and took into consideration Lyons’ good deeds. He could have been sentenced to eight years and one month.

Lyons, former president of the National Baptist Convention USA, was convicted Feb. 27 of swindling $4 million from businesses. He also was found guilty of stealing nearly $250,000 donated by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith to rebuild burned black churches in the South.

He was sentenced to four years and three months on federal bank fraud and tax evasion charges, but that term is being served concurrently with the state sentence.

Lyons, 57, now works in a prison library.

``Thirteen days alone in a 5 x 8 hotbox tested me and my faith. Thank God my faith held,″ Lyons wrote in a three-page letter to the judge, describing his first days of confinement. ``My lessons here in prison are hard and well learned and earned.″

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