PTL Grand Jury Testimony Continues After Hahn
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ An Assemblies of God official who investigated the PTL scandal for his church testified Wednesday to a federal grand jury looking into the ministry founded by Jim Bakker, but said some of what he knows must remain private.
The Rev. Charles Cookman is district superintendent of the Assemblies of God, the denomination Bakker belonged to before resigning as a minister and quitting PTL.
Cookman told reporters outside the grand jury room that he would tell the panel ″all of the information that is public record.″ But Cookman said some aspects of his church investigation of PTL involved talks he had with Bakker and he considered that information privileged.
″To violate the priest-client relationship is a difficult thing for me to do,″ Cookman said.
After his appearance before the panel, Cookman declined to discuss his testimony but said he had not been questioned about the church investigation.
Asked why he had been subpoenaed, Cookman said, ″I haven’t sorted it out yet as to the total reasons. I would assume they are talking to the people who were close.″
He met with the panel following two days of testimony by Jessica Hahn, the church secretary whose sexual liaison with Bakker in 1980 led to his departure from PTL in March.
Also called before the grand jury Wednesday were evangelist John Fletcher, who Miss Hahn says also forced himself on her that day; former PTL attorney Scott Furstman of California and businessman Paul Roper, who Ms. Hahn said helped negotiate the settlement she later recieved.
An extensive interview with Miss Hahn, accompanied by photos of her partially undressed, appear in this month’s edition of Playboy magazine.
Cookman told reporters he did not know Miss Hahn and did not want to pass judgment on her actions, but added, ″As a Christian, we totally disagree with anyone appearing in that kind of publication.″
Cookman was a member of the PTL board and resigned March 13, six days before Bakker quit the ministry he found in Fort Mill, S.C., just over the state line from Charlotte.
Cookman said he had no knowledge of the financial settlement between Ms. Hahn and Bakker. Ms. Hahn has said she was promised $260,000 to keep silent about the sexual encounter with Bakker and Fletcher in a Florida motel, but said in the Playboy interview she received only about $20,000.
″The board knew nothing about it,″ Cookman said.
Fletcher has acknowledged introducing Bakker to Ms. Hahn, but has not commented on her allegations that he also had sex with her. A man answering the telephone at the John Wesley Fletcher Evangelistic Association in Oklahoma City said Fletcher would make a statement after testifying before the grand jury.
Ms. Hahn said in Playboy she was forced to have sex with Bakker and Fletcher and was told ″you’re going to do something tremendous for God.″
Ms. Hahn also said that the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who took over Bakker’s PTL ministry, used her ″to throw punches at Bakker - to bring out the dirt.″
″All of them have violated somebody and are proud of it and act as if they belong to a billionaire boys’ club,″ Ms. Hahn said. ″Laws unto themselves 3/8″
Bakker has acknowledged having sex with her but contends she was the seducer. He lives in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and has an unlisted phone number.