Local News

Jury Finds Pastor Liable for Assault on Two Former Church Workers

Posted March 10, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— A Wake County jury has found that the senior pastor of White Plains United Methodist Church in Cary should be held liable for assaulting two former church workers.

The jury found that the Rev. Ed Privette should not be held liable for alleged assaults against a third worker.

The verdict in the civil trial was announced before noon Monday. The jury is now considering what, if any, damages to award to the two women, Tracey Newman and Debbie Smith.

The three women alleged that Privette inappropriately touched them. They say he often pulled them close, slapped them on the buttocks, or kissed them on the neck. One of the women, Gail Lawson, says she was fired as a church employee for complaining about the overtures.

But Privette, who church members said was very affectionate and often hugged people, denied that he engaged in any inappropriate touching. His lawyers argued that the former church workers concocted the sexual harassment claims because Privette gave them unfavorable job reviews.