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Baptist Minister is Guilty of Molestation, Sexual Assault

BYLINE: By Connie Cunningham And Mark Curriden Staff Writers
DATE: 11-11-1989
PUBLICATION: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
SECTION: Newspapers_&_Newswires
PAGE: D/03

A Cobb County jury Friday convicted a 46-year-old Baptist minister
of molesting two teenage girls and sexually assaulting an adult member of
his congregation.
Cobb Superior Court Judge Tom Cauthorn sentenced Thomas McGowan to
three years in prison and 17 years' probation. The judge also ordered
McGowan to stop preaching, to avoid being alone with under-aged children
and to undergo psychiatric counseling.
"He called himself a man of God," said Cobb Assistant District
Attorney Bruce Hornbuckle. "But a man of God wouldn't do this. He was a
man of deception."
Two young women testified Wednesday that while they were juveniles,
McGowan rubbed their thighs above their dresses and kissed their necks.
The state accused the preacher of causing the girls "cruel and excessive
mental pain."
A 26-year-old Smyrna woman told the jury McGowan made sexual
advances toward her in June 1988 and "grabbed me between the legs." The
preacher also told her he wanted to make love to her, the woman
McGowan still proclaimed his innocence after the verdict was
announced but said he would resign as pastor of New Grace Baptist Church.
Jimmy Berry, McGowan's attorney, said he will appeal the 12-member
jury's verdict. The minister is free on $50,000 bond.
McGowan claimed the charges were "trumped up" by members of Morning
View Baptist in Marietta, where he pastored from 1981 to 1987. McGowan
testified certain members of the church were trying to "destroy" him
because of their political differences.
"I'm just a country preacher," McGowan told the jury. "But we're
living in th e last days. It's getting to where you can't hug somebody or
shake their hand without being charged with child molestation."
Mr. Hornbuckle said the girls for years could not tell their story
because they were afraid of "crossing the preacher."
"This man used the pulpit, his position in the church, to abuse and
molest little girls and women," Mr. Hornbuckle said. "Our main goal was
to stop that and we did."
As both sides were leaving the courtroom, some of McGowan's
followers harangued the prosecutor.
"You'll get your justice," one said.
"Just wait until judgment day," said another.
photo: Baptist minister Thomas McGowan is hugged by a supporter Thursday
in Cobb Superior Court after his trial on molestation charges is recessed
for the day. He was found guilty Friday and was sentenced to three years
in prison and 17 years' probation. / CALVIN CRUCE / Staff
photo: Tom Cauthorn

Copyright 2003 The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution