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Prosecution Rests in Minister Case

February 10, 1999

LARGO, Fla. (AP) _ Shortly after prosecutors rested their case Tuesday against Rev. Henry Lyons, the National Baptist Convention USA leader briefly took the witness stand _ but jurors weren’t there to hear him.

Judge Susan Schaeffer wanted to hear from Lyons about a 1995 letter offering a list of the black church organization’s purported 8.5 million members to a magazine publisher for $50,000.

Prosecutors had wanted to admit the letter as evidence in his racketeering trial.

When asked by prosecutors whether such a list even existed at that time, he hesitated and then responded: ``Just trying to get my dates together. ... I don’t believe so.″

His statements cannot be presented before jurors unless he decides to testify on his own behalf. His defense lawyers, scheduled to begin presenting their case Wednesday, have not said whether they will call him.

Schaeffer said she would rule on the letter’s admissibility later.

During two weeks of prosecution testimony, witnesses said Lyons and co-defendant Bernice Edwards courted companies seeking to do business with the church organization and spent their money on expensive homes, jewelry and cars.

Prosecutors have said the membership figure of 8.5 million was greatly inflated to attract companies.

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