COLBERT COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - The Colbert County District Attorney was asked Thursday if church leaders violated state law by not immediately reporting abuse allegations involving a children's pastor.
Jeff Eddie will spend the next 30 years behind bars after pleading guilty to sex abuse charges. One of the victims filed a federal lawsuit against Eddie, Highland Park Baptist Church and a non-profit organization connected to the church.
The lawsuit (PDF) claims church leaders knew about the accusations for more than a week before notifying police.
According to state law, clergy members are required to report known or suspected abuse to authorities immediately. The new lawsuit claims church leaders knew about the accusations for 10 days, and even conducted their own investigation before going to police. If proven to be true, that is a direct violation of the law.
The original arrest warrant against Eddie also noted the church's internal investigation prior to police notification.
District Attorney Bryce Graham said because he is not connected to the civil suit that has been filed, he cannot comment on its details. However, he did release a statement:
"We prosecuted the criminal case and to my knowledge, the church reported it to us when they found out," Graham said. "Nothing has been brought to me of any discrepancies of any church officials as far as delayed reporting goes."
Graham said if something is brought to his office regarding delayed reporting in his office, he will look into it. However, he said at this time he believes church leaders did what they were supposed to do."