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Abuse Claims Don't End With Pastor's Death

POSTED: Monday, November 12, 2007

Despite his death, accusations that the Rev. Robert Gray molested children decades ago while he was pastor at Trinity Baptist Church will not go away.

Gray was taken off life support equipment last week and died Saturday. He was 81.

Gray's trial on four counts of sexual battery was scheduled to begin this week were postponed after he went into the hospital. While those criminal charges will not go forward, six civil cases filed against the church he led for nearly 40 years will continue.

Channel 4's Jim Piggott obtained copies of last month's deposition of Gray. While he was asked dozens of questions by a lawyer representing the women who claim he abused them as children in the 1960s and 1970, Gray gave only a few basic answers, like his name and address.

To every other question -- including whether he was married, his date of birth and whether he was an ordained Baptist minister -- Gray's attorney answered for him: "My client declines to answer on the basis of his Fifth Amendment privilege."

The plaintiffs' lawyer said that Gray's invocating his constitutional privilege not to incriminate himself could actually strengthen the victims' cases.

"You are going to have the victims of Bob Gray testify that, indeed he did abuse them," attorney Adam Horowitz said. "Bob Gray (is) now unable to deny he did not abuse the children, and, on top of that, you have a jury that is able to infer that he did abuse the children based on him asserting the Fifth Amendment."

Asked “Did you sexually abuse Jane Doe," "Did you fondle Jane Doe and Did you French kiss Jane Doe," Gray invoked his Fifth Amendment privileges on every question.

A jury in a criminal trial would not be allowed to hear those answers, but in civil court, a jury is allowed to hear that and assume what they will about his reasons for not answering.

"In a criminal case, what is at risk is your liberty, and so the Fifth Amendment says the government can't compel you to testify against yourself," said Channel 4's attorney, Ed Birk. "But in a civil context, it is usually private parties and it is money involved, and it's not liberties."

Leaders of Trinity Baptist are scheduled to be deposed next month. A trial date for the civil case is not scheduled.

After his death, Gray's family released the following statement through the church:
"The family is confident, as he was confident, that he is in heaven now by God's grace.

"The family prays that everyone involved can find peace, and asks that everyone understand this is the only statement that will be issued."

Funeral services for Gray were not announced as of Monday afternoon, but the family expected it to be a private event.

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