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November 19, 2002

Pastor accused of sex assault

From: Norristown Times Herald, PA
Nov. 19, 2002

By: GORDON GLANTZ, Times Herald Staff November 19, 2002

CONSHOHOCKEN - A 70-year-old clergyman has reportedly been accused of making unwanted physical advances toward a 53-year-old deaf and mute parishioner, according to borough police.

The Rev. Leon Lowery reportedly surrendered to authorities in the presence of his attorney. Lowery is charged with indecent assault, a misdemeanor offense, and was arraigned in front of District Justice Francis J. Bernhardt, who set bail at $5,000 unsecured.
Lowery would not comment on the allegations when contacted by telephone Monday night.
A preliminary hearing slated for 8 a.m. Nov. 27 in front of Bernhardt is expected to be continued to the another date, according to police.
Lowery reportedly resides rent-free with his wife on the 300 block of Hallowell Street, which is adjacent to the church he heads, St. Paul's Baptist Church at Third Avenue and Hallowell.
Through a family member who knows sign language, the woman levied her accusations against Lowery in mid-August, launching an investigation.
The investigation included interviews with congregants, many of whom have boycotted the church and have held Sunday service and prayer meetings within their own homes, according to Det. James Carbo of borough police.
Carbo took the initial report from the woman and headed the investigation.
"She was brought in with a family member who does sign language and they filed the report with me," he confirmed.
Carbo added that the investigation into other allegations is ongoing. "There are some other allegations, but nothing that can be used (to lodge charges)," he said.
Carbo added that, throughout the investigation, Lowery has maintained his innocence.
"He says it's all made up because the members of the congregation are trying to get him out," he said.
Carbo also said that congregants are pursuing legal action to have Lowery removed as the church's spiritual leader.
Lowery has reportedly been at the church for at least five years.
"They say he just showed up out of nowhere from the South and took over their church," said Carbo. "I know they have civil action and are trying to get rid of him there.
"Most of the actual congregation stopped going to church and started holding services at other places."
The incident for which Lowery is charged allegedly occurred around 6 p.m. July 25, according to reports, which add that the woman went to Lowery's residence to purchase amusement park tickets for her 10-year-old daughter from Lowery's wife.
The woman told Carbo that she was let into the residence by Lowery, who then closed the door behind her and, with his arms across her chest, grabbed her from behind, police reports say.
Reports add that the woman was "shocked and startled" and tried to free herself from Lowery's grasp but was unable, as Lowery was "too strong" for her.
The woman told Carbo that as she was "struggling to get away," Lowery allegedly placed both hands inside her shirt and began "fondling her breasts," reports say.
The struggle continued for approximately 15 minutes, according to the allegations, and ended only after Lowery opened the door to his residence and motioned for the woman to leave, according to reports.
She relayed to police that she "ran" out of the house and ran home."
"It was sad, when she came in, to learn about it," Carbo said.
Gordon Glantz can be reached at or at 610-272-2501, ext. 213.

©The Times Herald 2002