by Chet Hardin
As we reported last week, more than 30 members of St. John's Baptist Church have filed a lawsuit against their current pastor, Willie J. Sutton Jr., as well as his wife, Denise, and a number of other leaders of that church.
Among other allegations, the congregants are claiming that the Suttons have commingled their personal funds with those of the church; that the other defendants have allowed Sutton to claim authority that he should not possess; that he has been fired but refuses to leave; and that under Sutton's ill-gotten authority, their memberships to the church have been revoked.
Today, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Edward Hopkins, informed the Indy that he will be seeking a motion for a preliminary injunction to bar Sutton or the other defendants from attempting to use the church property as collateral to raise funds for their defense.
As he writes in an e-mail, "We estimate it would cost the church approximately $150,000 to pay for the defendants’ legal services if this matter were to go to trial. We estimate it would cost the church another $50,000 if the trial verdict were appealed."
Hopkins has written a public-notice letter that he is sending out to banks informing them that it is his opinion that none of the defendants have the legal right to leverage the church as collateral.
From Hopkins' letter:
No actual or apparent SJBC member, officer, employee, or agent is authorized to enter into a contract on behalf of SJBC to purchase legal services or to obtain a loan using SJBC property as collateral for the purpose of purchasing legal services for the above-listed defendants. Any contract made on behalf of SJBC to obtain a loan or line of credit using SJBC property as collateral for the purpose of purchasing legal services for the above-listed defendants can only be entered into fraudulently. If such a contract is made despite this Notice, the above listed plaintiffs will immediately take legal action to enjoin its performance or declare it void and will seek damages against every party to the contract.
Any attempt by any of the above-listed defendants to purchase legal services using SJBC resources or to obtain a loan or line of credit using SJBC property as collateral for the purpose of purchasing legal services for the above-listed defendants will be reported to relevant law enforcement agencies as theft or attempted theft. Any contract party who enters into such a contract or aids and abets the formation of such a contract will be reported to law enforcement agencies also.
Any person who attempts to enter into such a contract must disclose information about the lawsuit to all potential parties to and beneficiaries of the contract prior to its formation. Failure to do so will render the contract void or voidable due to fraud, misrepresentation, or failure to disclose material information.