Bishop Walter (Sweet Daddy) McCollough of the United House of Prayer for All People told a federal jury yesterday that he made $8,000 in loans to former D.C. Superior Court judge Robert H. Campbell, at least $5,000 of it from funds given to him by the church or collected through his ministry.
McCollough, testifying as a defense witness in Campbell's trial on bribery and conspiracy charges, said two cash loans, totaling $5,000 were made in 1975 and 1976 while Campbell was a member of the local bench. According to McCollough's testimony, both those loans were from "offerings" to the church and have been repaid.
A third loan of $3,000 was made by personal check from McCollough to July 1977 and has not yet been repaid, McCollough said yesterday. McCollough said the judge did not give a reason for needing any of the money. "He just asked me would I do him a favor," McCollough testified.
The government has alleged at Campbell's trial that the former judge was living beyond his means and took $10,000 in bribes and goods from a local construction firm to support his lifestyle. In exchange, the government contends, Campbell gave the firm, Excavation Construction Inc., favorable treatment on over-weight truck tickets.
Testimony from McCollough and another witness about cash loans made to Campbell is intended by the defense to counter government evidence that unexplained cash deposits in Campbell's bank accounts coincide with check requests made by a construction firm official who has testified that he made payoffs to the former judge.
McCollough testified yesterday that he has known Campbell for 25 years and considers him to be "a dear friend of mine." McCollough told Campbell's defense lawyer, R. Kenneth Mundy, that the loans came from his personal funds. Under cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney John p. Hume, McCollough further explained that the United House of Prayer does not pay its pastor a salary but provides income through donations and gifts made to the church. That was the source of the two loans in 1975 and 1976 totaling $5,000, McCollough said. He did not testify as to the source of the still unpaid $3,000 loan.
McCollough, who has a following of some 2,000 people in in Washington in Washington alone, has headed up the United House of Prayer here since 1960 and has been described as wealthy and politically influential leader in Washington. The church, which was started in the 1920s in inner-city tents and storefronts, now has more than 75 mortgage-free Houses of Prayer, housing projects in four states and headquarters in Washington that have been undergoing extensive renovation. The church also owns a fleet of buses to take its worshipers to revivals around the country.
Another witness at the Campbell trial, Lacey Wilson, the owner of the Florida Avenue Grill in Washington, testified earlier in the trail that he made a total of $3,000 in three cash loans to former judge Campbell from 1975 to 1977. Wilson told the jury the loans hava been repaid.
Former judge Campbell, Larry A. Campbell (no relation to the judge), the general manager of Excavation Construction, and the firm itself are all charged with bribery conspiracy and racketeering. Defense lawyers indicated yesterday that neither the former judge nor Larry Campbell will take the witness stand to testify. The trial, now in its seventh week, is expected to close today with final arguments scheduled for Wednesday.