Swaggart Ministries Drops Lawsuit Plans Against Texas Lawyer
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ A lawyer says reports that he accused evangelist Jimmy Swaggart of using money from his ministry for personal expenses were misconstrued and based on out-of-context statements.
As a result, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries won’t press a defamation suit lawyer Russell R. Graham of Austin, Texas, the Baton Rouge Sunday Advocate reported.
Graham wrote a letter to Frances and Jimmy Swaggart on July 2, saying his statements in a Feb. 2 letter to Judge John C. Martin of Conroe, Texas, were misconstrued to imply that Swaggart was using funds from the Baton Rouge-based ministry for personal purposes.
The Conroe Independent School District, the city of Shenandoah and Montgomery County contend that Swaggart-owned radio station KJOJ owes $157,000 in county property taxes. Graham represents the Montgomery County Appraisal District and Review Board.
Swaggart contends the properties are tax-exempt.
″I know of no evidence that Jimmy Swaggart is siphoning or skimming funds for his personal gain or personal use,″ Graham wrote to the Swaggarts.
″Statements in court papers have been taken out of context by certain members of the press and have been misused to suggest incorrectly that there is evidence that Jimmy Swaggart is diverting funds and realizing improper private gain from Jimmy Swaggart Ministries,″ he wrote.
″Certain members of the press and certain publications have attempted to create a story or scandal out of this purely legal dispute,″ Graham wrote. ″I am disturbed that this lawsuit was used for the purpose of sensationalism, and sincerely hope that this letter will help put this matter at peace.″
Graham also wrote that he will suggest sealing the court records ″to prevent any further distortions of fact.″
Jimmy Swaggart Ministries’ general counsel Jerald Ogg Jr. said last week that Graham’s letter stopped the ministry’s plans to seek damages for defamation of character, the newspaper reported.
″Jimmy felt it had crossed the line,″ Ogg said of the remarks. ″We’re used to potshots, and you pretty much expect that in the public arena. This went to his personal integrity.
″It’s not Jimmy’s style to sue, and he won’t unless he’s tried every other avenue of resolving the thing,″ Ogg said.
Papers filed in connection with the tax dispute have revealed that Swaggart’s ministry collected $455.8 million in contributions and sales of religious materials from 1978 to 1985.