LOUDOUN COUNTY

Jury Hears Tape Recording in Incest Trial

James L. Bevel, a former civil rights leader and confidant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is accused of molesting his daughter when he lived with her in Leesburg in the 1990s.
James L. Bevel, a former civil rights leader and confidant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is accused of molesting his daughter when he lived with her in Leesburg in the 1990s. (Anonymous - AP)
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By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Prosecutors in the incest trial of civil rights leader James L. Bevel played a tape for a Loudoun County jury yesterday of a phone conversation in which he never fully admitted or denied having sex in the 1990s with his then-teenage daughter, despite her repeated attempts to get him to make the admission.

Instead, Bevel, 71, responded vaguely to her explicit questions about their alleged sexual encounters.

The daughter had earlier told the Loudoun Circuit Court jury that she saw her father, a Baptist minister, trying to "brainwash" residents of communal "clinic houses" he set up in which his daily 12-hour meetings focused on overcoming lust. He taught the "science of marriage," in which open sex was often the solution to problems, she said.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Nicole Wittman played the 1 1/2 -hour tape that Leesburg police recorded without Bevel's knowledge Oct. 31, 2005, in an apparent attempt to show that Bevel had acknowledged having sex with his daughter.

In the phone conversation, Bevel at times seemed close to admitting that he had sex with his daughter.

"So you're saying all your sexual experiences with me were scientific processes?" his daughter said.

"That's right," Bevel replied.

The daughter testified that she had sex with her father as a 14- or 15-year-old in Leesburg after years of sexual abuse during a childhood in which she said she lived in communal "cultlike" homes and was a "functioning alcoholic." As a child, she said, she was suicidal.

Bevel has pleaded not guilty to a single charge of unlawfully committing fornication on an unknown date while he lived with the daughter in Leesburg from Oct. 14, 1992, to Oct. 14, 1994. If convicted, the former confidant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. faces up to 20 years in prison.

The charges arose out of a complaint that Bevel's daughter filed with Leesburg police in September 2005. The woman said she decided to take action against her father because she feared he would sexually abuse his youngest daughter. She said she filed the charge in Leesburg because Virginia does not have a statute of limitations for felonies.

The Washington Post generally does not identify people who have alleged they were sexually abused. The accuser has said she is one of Bevel's 14 children.

The woman told the jury that Bevel presented himself to the people who lived with him in the "clinic houses" as "the successor of Jesus, and he was carrying out the work of Jesus."


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