The following report regards the sexual assault suit No. 95-2850-B filed against Garner Ted Armstrong by Suerae Robertson with the District County Courthouse in Tyler, Texas. This article is part of the investigative report that the Exit & Support Network™ compiled. The report was issued to provide critical information and facts to those requesting it for the purpose of discernment and decision. As a result of ESN’s expose´ on GTA, he lost a lot of his members from his church and the group fragmented.
This report is compiled from one to one conversations with the investigator, Atty. #3, the victim and her husband. Almost seven hours of conversation on one to one provided the first hand knowledge as reported by those involved.
What is reported below is the account as stated by the investigator, the victim, her husband, and the lawyer. There are no opinions, conjectures or modifications added. This information is provided as an educational aid to those who sacrifice and dedicate their lives to spiritual truth. This report is not intended to slander/libel or personally attack anyone. It is the duty of those who come to the knowledge of deception, to expose it. To cover up corruption in any form is placing oneself as an accomplice to the crime. In the event of Ron Dart’s resignation it is necessary to expose, “a reason behind the event!” To remain silent regarding this case leaves me personally responsible if and when it happens again. The year 1995 (Simpson vs. The People) issued many lessons regarding the power of authority, control, and abuse in any form. Take heed!
The victim’s names will not be exposed in this report.
Some of the preceding content may appear graphic but is in no way intended to personally offend anyone. It is part of the case.
This case basically started in early July 1995 and was mismanaged throughout the summer months. By early Sept. a “new start” was initiated from consultation and a new counsel.
GTA=Garner Ted Armstrong (son of Herbert W. Armstrong)
The victims are residents in Tyler Texas. The woman runs a respectable day spa in the bottom floor of their Victorian house.
GTA started attending the spa around May. The victim states GTA was in about six or seven times and that she had no idea who he was. The victim learned of GTA’s position as a popular televangelist from a friend who witnessed him leaving the parlor in late June or early July.
According to the victim, GTA was making sexual gestures early on during his appointments.
The incidents increased and on July 4th, 1995 the incident was very overt and stunning to the masseuse.
An investigator was consulted. Attorney Tim McCoy was hired that was recommended by the investigator.
Shortly after that, the husband set up a video camera and captured forty-five minutes of GTA’s behavior during the next visit.
According to the investigator, on the 4th of July it escalated to what the victim described in her written statement was nothing less than sexual assault under the state of Texas.
GTA was hunted down in Phoenix and handed a letter of notification. In less than an hour after this letter was given to GTA in Phoenix by the investigator, he was on the phone to Atty. Tim McCoy. It is described by the victims that they were told by the investigator that GTA exhibited scared behavior and tenseness of voice. When the investigator handed the notification to GTA, GTA asked, “What is this about?” The investigator responded with, “Mr. Armstrong, the only thing different between you and Jimmy Swaggart is that we have your butt on video.”
Shortly after, the victim’s Atty. calls the investigator and states he is withdrawing from the case. His reason given was that he (the attorney) “prayed about it and God wants me to.” The victim reported that he thought this Atty. was a Mason.
A new attorney is assigned the case.
Lawyer #2 –Atty. Doug Frieson (phonetically spelled) was hired. Before he took the case he had a psychologist do an evaluation on the victim. Doug Frieson took the evaluation and psychologist report and went to a DA in Oklahoma City and Bar association in efforts to carry out the procedures legally.
GTA’s Atty. from California states that Garner Ted Armstrong has been “good” for seventeen years. The investigator’s response was, “We got a saying in Oklahoma, and that’s don’t urinate down my boot and tell me it’s raining.” Meanwhile, documents of the past describing GTA’s sexual promiscuity was collected by the victim’s party.
Settlement out of court was the goal. GTA’s lawyers wanted to see the whole tape and he was told that if he wanted to see the whole tape, a suit will be filed and Ted would get it in discovery. The defendants were given an excerpt of the tape and Ted’s attorney agrees “this will ruin him.” They continued to state that GTA is a salaried employee; doesn’t have much money; and, we’ll offer you $20,000 for it.
The offer was not accepted. After a squabble with the lawyers about settling over six figures, a lawsuit was discussed. Meanwhile, Current Affair was contacted and interested, CNN, Sixty Minutes and Hard Copy were being considered.
During this time period Benny Sharp (CGI Business Manager) speaks with the investigator stating that he (Benny) guarantees that Ted has received his last massage ever. Benny Sharp also attempted to arrange a meeting between Ted and the victims to negotiate and settle out of court with legal involvement.
Benny Sharp contacts the victim’s Atty. and attempts to discuss Ted Armstrong. Benny Sharp is told that Ted will not be discussed on the phone but the Church of God International is open for discussion. An attempt to contact the client was made by the church directly. The victims refused communication.
The investigator claimed that Benny Sharp states that all the hierarchy knows about the incidents and pending legal tangle (including Ron Dart). Ron Dart was not part of any negotiations during this time and did not have vocal contact with any of the parties mentioned during this time period.
The victim’s Atty. Doug Frieson gave GTA and Atty. a deadline to settle out of court, The victims were not contacted by GTA’s lawyers in effort to meet the deadlines. Media Exposure was the option to be used if Garner Ted Armstrong refused to settle. Victims stated they have felt petrified for past couple of months due mainly to a death threat. The victims do not place blame on who initiated the threats.
They are told by Benny Sharp that Garner Ted Armstrong has been put on a short leash by Benny Sharp and Ron Dart and that Garner cannot do anything without their consent. Garner has no control over church money.
GTA’s lawyer from California, Mr. Agathey (spelled phonetically) says, “this isn’t going to go six figures.” The victim’s Atty. states they will not discuss anything less than that. GTA’s, response was to file the lawsuit. Agathey told victims Atty. to “accept service.”
The tentative plan was that Wednesday, Sept. (first week) 1995, the media would get involved. The victims felt that CNN was the first choice to be followed by Current Affair and Hard Copy. Current Affair was set for meeting the victims on Thursday (first week) 1995. CNN was already contacted by this time and highly interested in running the story. CNN assured the victims that they had twenty investigators and would be pleased to assign the story. The victims learned that the hierarchy was in the know about the GTA accusations.
Dallas News was contacted and was hopeful the story involved Bob Tilton.
Benny Sharp was contacted and notified that the story was scheduled to go public. The next day GTA’s lawyer was on the phone with victims’ lawyer offering more money.
At this time the victims felt Atty. Doug Frieson, was not handling the case to the best interest of the victims. After weeks of negotiations between the hired counsel of the victims and the Attys. of GTA, there was not an offer made by this time. The GTA position was that GTA had no money and they were trying to borrow the money in Tyler. The victims felt this was procrastination and excuses to buy time. Due to the mismanagement of the case by all parties thus far, the victims felt they were getting re-victimized.
The victims stated to their lawyer that they wanted the final deadline set. As the victims were told to remain secluded they felt their life was falling apart and they might even lose their home. CNN already stated that they would provide investigators and would accompany the victims through the process. They stated that CNN would play it right down the middle by taking the victims’ story and GTA’s story.
The victims state that Current Affair or CNN called down to the ministry which led to an overnight decision to up the offer of settlement to $100,000.
During this time period GTA attempted to contact Atty. Doug Frieson as did Benny Sharp. Atty. Doug Frieson did talk with Benny but refused to discuss Ted or the case.
The victims were then told that $100,000 is the best GTA can come up with and that GTA was on a short leash. They are told GTA is 65 years old and starting to take a down turn in his life. They are told GTA is thinking of retiring.
Victims claim that Atty. Doug Frieson has “bought their story” that Sharp and Dart have put GTA under the management of the board and put him on a $75,000 yr. salary. Excuses are given to victims that Atty. Agathey is a Real Estate Atty. and has messed up. Victims question Atty. Doug Frieson and investigator. Victims consider getting new counseling. In Sept. (second week) the victims stated that they were giving GTA lawyers until noon that day and if the deadline is not met the victims would contact CNN to proceed with the exposure.
Through consultation, the victims proceeded to respond to the mismanagement of the case. After the victims received many referrals, references, and several hours of consultation upon their request, they proceeded to contact a new psychologist, and cult awareness individual which led them to hiring a new lawyer from Dallas, Texas. Mr. John Osborn accepted the case and legally notified Doug Frieson to release the tape via courier.
Atty. John Osborn stated that under Texas law the occurrence constitutes sexual harassment. The victims described the new management of the case as the “new start.” John Osborn felt that the case was extremely salvageable and an extremely good case. Even with the damage done by past legal management, the case was still salvageable. Attaching the CGI property was immediately considered along with a personal judgment of what he personally owned.
John Osborn felt that GTA should know that CNN and its twenty investigator team was willing to take the case on. GTA would be made aware that CNN exposure is on top of the list of options if they do not settle out of court.
Mr. Osborn’s assessment:
Basically this tape will ruin GTA. If they will settle, we’ll settle. If they have to pay out a king’s ransom that may stop him in the future. If they offer significant money and we pursue litigation instead, how do we get a judgment when all the money is tied up? If a settlement comes out of this, then it is a victory.
The purpose of the tape was to corroborate what he has done before. Early on the tape GTA apologizes what he has done the week before. That is corroboration of his sexual assault.
Other considerations regarding GTA:
- Another massage therapist in Tyler who made him [cover his parts] during a session.
- A massage therapist who was involved with GTA in Hawaii in 1988.
As described by the lawyer and victims, the video views GTA and his extensive tattoo artistry all ever his body. He discusses his marriage to Shirley being cold and they only make love two or three times a year. He discusses his sexual situation regarding his wife and complains [clipped for graphic content]. He sings the song, Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else But Me. Among many other sexual demonstrations by GTA on the video, is [clipped for graphic content]. It was stressed that the tape is “absolutely incredible.” [It was indicated that the video is far more explicit than stated here.]
John Osborn was hopeful to settle the case by end October. The plan was to:
- Identify other victims, even if it meant placing an ad in the Tyler papers.
- Digest knowledge
- Speak to as many people as possible
- Develop a settlement brochure
- Send it to LA and stick to the plan
- Plan for a settlement by Oct. 31st
In conclusion and from my perspective:
My last conversation with the victims and John Osborn was in early September 1995. I have not been notified of the terms of settlement. I have heard that the case did settle for a sizable amount but I cannot confirm that at this time. I attempted to call the victims, to no avail as their number is changed and unlisted. A letter will follow to John Osborn and the victims requesting a follow-up! Ron Dart would be able to confirm the settlement. It was my strong impression during our lengthy consultations, that the victims were concerned over the deception in the church ministry and felt it necessary to expose the deceptive acts. To this point, and to my knowledge, I have not had any indication that any exposure took place. This is another matter. The lawyer and client are entitled to use the law to their fullest extent; however one would hope, due to the exploitation and involvement of thousands in the church that an action plan for the prevention of future violations was included in the settlement. I would have also thought, based on my time donated (19 hours-not including this report) to the parties involved, that a follow-up regarding my concern for the members would have been appropriate.
I do not take pleasure in issuing reports of this nature. This report concentrates on Garner Ted Armstrong and the Church of God International. However, while the mounds of documentation of years gone by serve as reminders to the corruption that has prevailed in the WCG and extension organizations, one would hope that lessons would be learned from history, and weaknesses corrected.
Sexual promiscuity is not an isolated problem within the WCG conglomerate. Documentation describes adulteries, homosexuality, pornography, and other situations of this nature, exhibited from leaders of tax-exempt, multi-million dollar organizations, called churches of God. Those investigating and researching the organizations they are committed to should question and demand an explanation. If, in fact, this case has settled out of court and exposure is a closed issue, the question and grave concern remains as to what plan is in place to prevent the next occurrence? Who will be the next victim? How many victims went sight unseen these past “seventeen years?” Are there other victims that were not exposed, or were they possibly hushed? How is one to believe that this is an isolated case based on GTA’s previous history during the 1960s and 1970s? What medical or psychological treatment plan will GTA participate in?
THESE ARE SERIOUS QUESTIONS! Some might think that this case is a personal matter. When a spiritual leader of a multi-million dollar organization represents himself as a holy anointed man of God and representative of “God’s message,” the members have a right and the responsibility to know of abuses or hypocrisy. There is a serious problem when the message says one thing and the messenger’s actions speak the opposite.
What about the members–the brethren? They too are victimized and violated. What administration action is in place to prevent abuses of this nature or other infractions from reoccurring in the future? When does it end? When will those who have the strength and faith, stand up and be counted for truth and accountability? I reflect on 2 Peter, chapter 2.
Compiled by L. A. Stuhlman (Founder of Exit & Support Network™)
UPDATE: Garner Ted Armstrong died of pneumonia at age 73 on September 15, 2003. Ronald L. Dart founded Christian Educational Ministries in 1995 after he left the Church of God International. CEM produces his Born to Win program (Whitehouse, Texas), airing on Christian radio. He also founded Independent Church of God and continues to teach many of Herbert W. Armstrong’s unorthodox doctrines including anti-Trinitarism. More on Ronald Dart is covered in our OIU #4, Pt. 4. (Search for the words “Ronald L. Dart)