King Confidant Faces More Allegations

The Associated Press
Thursday, June 14, 2007; 8:51 PM

LEESBURG, Va. -- Women from across the country have stepped forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against a prominent civil rights leader and Martin Luther King Jr. confidant who is charged with incest, a prosecutor said Thursday.

The Rev. James L. Bevel, 70, was charged last week with having sexual relations with a teenage relative in the 1990s.

Since his arrest, Loudoun County prosecutors "are getting calls from people all over the country saying the defendant engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct," prosecutor Gigi Lawless said at a bond hearing Thursday.

The calls that have come into prosecutors since Bevel's arrest involve women unrelated to him, Lawless said.

Bevel did not speak during Thursday's hearing, and his wife, Erica Henry, declined comment. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Defense attorney Buta Biberaj said Bevel will plead not guilty, but declined to discuss specifics about the charges.

"Right now these are only accusations, allegations," Biberaj said.

Lawless told the judge that the relative later confronted Bevel about the alleged abuse in a taped conversation. He acknowledged the sex but chastised her "for believing it was something other than religious training," Lawless said.

Lawless argued unsuccessfully that Bevel should be denied bail while he awaits trial, saying he poses a danger to the community. Circuit Judge James H. Chamblin set a $30,000 bond with the conditions that Bevel avoid contact with children and that he temporarily move from his Alabama home to Washington, where family friends have agreed to serve as his custodian.

Bevel has not been arrested in nearly 40 years, Biberaj said. His previous criminal record consists of contempt of court citations and other charges associated with his desegregation efforts and protests during the civil rights movement, Biberaj said.

Bevel, who worked with King and witnessed his assassination in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968, has played a key role in some of the country's major civil rights protests.

He organized the 1963 Children's Crusade in Birmingham, Ala., and was a leader of the Freedom Rides to desegregate public accommodations throughout the South in the early 1960s. And he was an architect of the March on Washington in 1963 and the Selma-to-Montgomery march in Alabama in 1965.

News articles from Nation of Islam publications also credit Bevel as a chief organizer of the Million Man March 1995.

Bevel also ran for vice president in 1992 on a ticket with political maverick Lyndon LaRouche, who was serving a federal prison sentence for conspiracy and mail fraud at the time.

© 2007 The Associated Press