Charge dismissed against megachurch bishop accused in ‘revenge porn’ case

Charge dismissed against megachurch bishop accused in ‘revenge porn’ case
Bishop Victor Couzens in 2009 at the new building for Inspirational Baptist Church in Forest Park. The congregation was then about 3,500 strong. (Source: Enquirer File)

CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - After 21 months in the criminal justice system, the harassment charge filed by a New York City model against the pastor of Forest Park megachurch of uploading a hidden-camera sex tape to the internet has been thrown out on a technicality by a judge in Butler County, according to our media partners at the Enquirer.

Citing a lack of jurisdiction in his 11-page opinion, Judge Daniel J. Gattermeyer wrote the indictment against Victor S. Couzens doesn’t reference Hamilton Ross Township or St. Clair Township, where the alleged incident occurred, but instead “in Butler County, Ohio.”

“Based on the above analysis, since the indictment in this case fails in this regard, the court hereby grants the defendant’s motion and dismisses this indictment,” the Hamilton Municipal Court judge wrote in his June 15 decision. A Butler County grand jury issued an indicatment against Couzens in July 2019, about nine months after the complaint was filed.

Couzens, bishop of Inspirational Baptist Church, faced a misdemeanor charge of telecommunication harassment based on the complaints of Andrea Garrison, 31, a former girlfriend of Couzens who now is a model living in the Bronx.

The Butler County's prosecutor's office couldn't be reached for comment on the dismissal.

Couzens filed the dismissal motion on March 16, according to court records. He declined to comment on the case’s outcome.

“The question presented by the motion to dismiss is whether the indictment in this case sufficiently invokes the jurisdiction of the municipal court such that it could proceed to hear the matter,” Gattermeyer wrote in his conclusion.

Garrison claims the bishop filmed her with a hidden camera without her consent, leaked the sex tape to porn sites and threatened her in October 2018.

She said the actions came in retaliation for a Facebook post she made accusing Couzens of sleeping with multiple women and using church money for himself. The video went viral.

“It took (almost) two years to decide we were in the wrong courtroom. It’s very disheartening that victims can go to the courts when they have a complaint and they’re treated as the criminal,” Garrison said in a phone interview. “You have to go to hell and back to get justice. I don’t have faith in the justice system anymore.”

Garrison was living in New York City when the video was leaked and originally filed her complaint with the NYPD but was later instructed to contact Cincinnati police.

She then filed a separate complaint that month with the West Chester Police Department that was investigated and ultimately led to the indictment.

Couzens, who lives in West Chester, has been embroiled in courtroom controversy all year.

Lincoln, Nebraska-based Union Bank & Trust Co. filed a foreclosure against the church on Feb. 10, saying it gave Inspirational Baptist a $5.1 million commercial loan in January 2015.

The church owes nearly $4.7 million on the five-year loan, which came due on Jan. 10, Hamilton County court records show.

Union Bank & Trust Co. is also charging the church daily interest of $634.91.

In May, Couzens asked to be a defendant in a foreclosure, claiming the bank interfered with his employment by the church – and he wants at least $25,000 in financial, emotional and punitive damages from it. A hearing in the foreclosure case is scheduled for July 31.

A struggle for control of the church ended in March ended with Couzens remaining as the undisputed leader when Common Pleas Court Judge J. Patrick Foley ruled that state courts had no jurisdiction in ecclesiastical matters.

One faction in the church sought but failed to obtain a temporary restraining order blocking Couzens from Inspirational Baptist.

Membership at the church, once reported to be around 5,000, had declined 90% between 2018 and late 2019 in the wake of revelations about Couzens’ personal conduct, according to court documents.

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