Civil Rights Leader Convicted of Incest

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 11, 2008

A Loudoun County jury yesterday found former civil rights leader James L. Bevel guilty of incest and said he should spend 15 years in prison for having sex with one of his daughters in the 1990s when they lived in Leesburg.

The seven-man, five-woman jury also gave Bevel, a 71-year-old Christian minister and confidant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a $50,000 fine. Under Virginia law, the judge can reduce the jury's sentence but cannot increase it.

Circuit Court Judge Burke F. McCahill revoked Bevel's bond, and the defendant was taken into custody. Bevel's court-appointed attorney, Bonnie Hoffman, said he might appeal.

Bevel was convicted of unlawfully committing fornication while he lived with the daughter, Jamese Machado, from Oct. 14, 1992, to Oct. 14, 1994. The Washington Post does not identify victims of sexual assault without their permission. Yesterday, Machado said she wanted to be named.

The felony charge grew out of a discussion some of Bevel's grown daughters had at a family reunion in 2004 about experiences with their father when they were children. The daughters confronted their father, who said he performed sex acts to guide and train them, prosecutors said. In September 2005, Machado filed a complaint with Leesburg police. She testified that her father began sexually abusing her when she was 6 and that she became an alcoholic.

In their closing arguments yesterday, prosecutors told the jury that a comment Bevel made about pregnancy in a taped phone conversation with Machado was the "damning" piece of evidence against him.

In the 1 1/2 -hour call, recorded by Leesburg police without Bevel's knowledge in 2005, Machado asked her father about his motivation for having sex with her when she was 14 or 15, and why afterward he asked her to use a vaginal douche.

Bevel responded, "Because I had no interest in getting you pregnant," prosecutors said.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Nicole Wittmann recalled Bevel's denial that he had sex with Machado, and then she posed the question, "How do you get someone pregnant without having sex with them?"

In the year since she filed charges against her father, Machado has changed her name to Aaralyn Mills. But she was referred to as Machado during the four-day trial.

Bevel was a front-and-center figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. 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. He helped organize the March on Washington in 1963 and the Selma-to-Montgomery march in Alabama in 1965. Along with civil rights icons Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young, Bevel witnessed the April 4, 1968, assassination of King.

On Wednesday, Bevel suggested to the jury that the charge was part of a conspiracy, though he did not say by whom. "Someone has plotted to destroy my reputation, my being," he said.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company