MIAMI,None — Two of Bishop Eddie Long's accusers say their settlement was not nearly as big as rumors said. Now they're risking it all to tell the whole story.
Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande sat down with Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer and talked for several hours about how their new lifestyle has brought about new fears.
Both of the young men told Fleischer this was never about money, and it still isn't. They say it's about the truth.
They're writing a book to express what they've been through and to warn others before they end up on the same path.
"I don't know if I'm angry anymore at the abuse, I think I'm more so angry at what I lost from it," Parris told Fleischer.
When Parris thinks about the past few years of his life, he blames Long for taking away every relationship that mattered. He and LeGrande said they trusted Long to be their spiritual father and he betrayed them.
"We weren't anything more than kids who went to the church to learn about God. What trapped us is we were just addicted to the lifestyle. We were addicted to the love that we got," LeGrande said.
Before they settled their sex abuse lawsuits, they sat across the table from the Long, face-to-face.
"It was like a high school linebacker going up against Ray Lewis," Parris said. But it was a chance for each to say what happened.
"I don't need the clothes. I don't need the jewelry. I'll stand up in front of you like a man more than you ever were. Now tell me I'm lying, tell me I'm wrong. Tell me you didn't do this. Look at all of us now face up," Parris said.
They won't reveal exactly how much money they were paid. It was enough to buy a new car, some jewelry and a lesson.
"I'm gonna tell the world, money does not buy happiness," LeGrande said.
“I'm still bringing the same demons and nightmares, so now I'm living a lifestyle that's meant to crash," Parris added.
LeGrande calls the lifestyle the hardest part. A trooper found marijuana and a gun in Parris’ car during a traffic stop in June. He says the marijuana was to ease his pain; the gun, for protection. Now he's on probation.
“I'm 24-years-old now, what the hell happened? How the hell did I get here?" Parris said.
"I'm more afraid now, because you don't know what's gonna happen. You don't know who's gonna know you, where you're gonna be and who's gonna be around to help you," LeGrande said.
Impact of the case
The men say they barely knew each other before the lawsuits. Now they depend on each other to survive their memories. They say Long helped shape the men they've become. They want to remember his lessons, but forget the pain.
"We still fight it every day because it's our life. People don't understand we're real people out here, we're not just victims. We're just trying to make it. We're trying to become men, without a father," LeGrande said.
The other thing money can't buy? An apology, which they said they never got from Long, even during the confidential settlement.
“Why is the person that I loved the most with all my heart, still, after all this is done, you can't look me in my eyes and say ‘I'm sorry.’ You can't pick up a damn phone to say ‘Yo, I know I messed up,’" Parris said.
They hope their book will help encourage other victims to come forward. And help each other to reclaim their lives.
"I just told the truth, that's all I did. Last time I checked it didn't come with a price tag," Parris said.
Parris and LeGrande told Fleischer once they started the settlement talks the four accusers compared notes and realized just how similar their stories were. They say Long used the same words and phrases, the same manipulation and the same physical progression.
"A predator, they have a certain pattern that they all do. And for him it started with ‘let me captivate you,’" Parris said.
Both men said it was easy to be captivated by the pageantry when Long walked in a room, and his lavish lifestyle. He was the father they always craved.
"That's all a predator needs. Know the unstable part in your relationship and find a place where I can make it stronger," Parris said.
They said Long earned their trust, and then encouraged them to distance themselves from friends, girlfriends, even their families.
"If you want to ask me the hardest part, looking back at my life saying, ‘Yo, look at all the people I really cared for that I lost,’" Parris said
Parris said it started with an emotional connection. Then, a question about his most painful memory. Then comfort.
"’Talk about how you feel’. Then you start vividly thinking about it and you start crying," Parris said.
"At the moment, as a 14-year-old, you're thinking like you're the luckiest kid in the world, like nothing can touch you," LeGrande said
They say Long showered them with gifts and made them feel special. "Out of all his congregation, he just wanted you to love him," they said in unison.
Then Parris showed Fleischer how the physical contact started, harmless at first. “It goes from me sitting over here to me moving closer," Parris said. “You start touching ‘em.”
“He'll slowly, slowly gain your trust. That's it,” added LeGrande. “You think a man of that stature would not ever do anything like that, and that's what everyone thinks.”
Parris described what happened next, "Now things are happening to you in a room. Who are you gonna talk to? You've isolated everyone. Everyone thinks you've abandoned them. Nobody can hear you.”
“Towards the end you just start breaking down every day, wanting to voice out what's going on inside your heart but you're scared to tell people," said LeGrande.
"I was in a service one day and I wanted to stand up and say, ‘he's touching me.’ And then I looked over at security and I saw the gun in his back and I sat back down again," Parris said.
Finally they both broke away. They told their families. LeGrande said, "The emotion that came out of it after I told them and explained to them was horrifying.”
Choosing to come forward
LeGrande said he never planned to come forward, until he heard three other young men had. He said Long didn't want him to leave.
“He was begging me to come back, begging me to see me, and I was like ‘Nah, I don't like what was going on here, so I'm fleeing,’" LeGrande said.
"I loved my nightmare. That's the crazy part, is I actually loved it," Parris said.
Fleischer asked the men, “How many Jamals and Spencers do you think there are out there?”
“Don't ask me that question,” responded Parris. “Just don’t ask me that question.”
The other question that still tortures them, is one of punishment.
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