Prosecutor Details Incest Trial's Origins

The case against James L. Bevel arose after some of his daughters compared notes, a prosecutor says.
The case against James L. Bevel arose after some of his daughters compared notes, a prosecutor says. (AP)
By Amy Orndorff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 15, 2007

Incest allegations against a leader of the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s arose after some of his grown daughters began comparing notes and realized that they had had similar experiences when they were younger, a Loudoun County prosecutor said yesterday.

The daughters confronted their father, James L. Bevel, who told them that he had performed sex acts as a way to guide and train them and that they were wrong to think it was inappropriate, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Gigi Lawless said. Since his arrest, the prosecutor's office has gotten calls from people across the country alleging that Bevel engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct, she said.

The prosecutor's comments came as she tried to convince Circuit Court Judge James H. Chamblin that Bevel, indicted last month on an incest charge, was a threat to public safety and should remain in jail. Defense attorney Buta Biberaj argued that her client had turned himself in to police and was not a flight risk. Bevel has no criminal record except for charges stemming from civil rights protests in the 1960s, and "that gives weight that he is not a danger to the community," Biberaj said.

Chamblin released Bevel on $30,000 bond but said the close friend of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. cannot have interaction with anyone younger than 18 or leave Virginia or the District. Bevel, a 70-year-old minister, has been charged with one count of unlawfully committing fornication. Prosecutors said the incident occurred between Oct. 14, 1992, and Oct. 14, 1994, when his accuser was 13 to 17 years old.

The allegations arose when his daughters, who live around the country and did not grow up together, began comparing their childhood experiences and found similarities.

"He kind of spins it like: 'Yes, I did have sex with you, but it was religious training,' " the prosecutor said.

When they decided to press charges, Bevel's daughters began looking at different jurisdictions where they say offenses occurred. They approached authorities in Loudoun because Virginia does not have a statute of limitations on felonies, Lawless said. The accuser filed a formal complaint to the Leesburg police in September 2005.

The prosecutor also told the judge that the daughters were concerned for the welfare of Bevel's youngest daughter, who is a minor. The daughter is staying with grandparents, Lawless said.

Bevel, who lives in Eutaw, Ala., according to court documents, was visiting his local sheriff's office late last month to discuss community programs when he was approached about the warrant in Loudoun. When confronted, Bevel was arrested without incident and waived extradition. He arrived in Virginia on June 3.

Bevel sat quietly and attentively in a orange-and-white-striped jumpsuit and leg irons during the hearing. If convicted, he could receive up to 20 years in prison, Lawless said.

Most notably, Bevel organized the 1963 Children's Crusade in Birmingham, Ala., and led marches for desegregation in Washington and across the South.

In 1968, he witnessed the assassination of his friend, King. Bevel was the vice presidential running mate of Lyndon LaRouche Jr. in 1992 and helped organize the Million Man March in Washington in 1995.

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