By Bob Allen
A former traveling Southern Baptist evangelist charged with felony video voyeurism in Mississippi waived his right to a jury trial July 27, leaving his fate in the hands of a judge.
Sammy Nuckolls, once a popular speaker at youth events including LifeWay Christian Resources’ FUGE summer camps, had until last Friday to plead guilty to 13 counts of photographing, taping, or filming persons in violation of the expectation of privacy as part of a plea bargain. Instead, according to local media reports, Nuckolls admitted in a bench trial to videotaping women in his home in Olive Branch, Miss., without their knowledge but did not enter a formal guilty plea.
Circuit Court Judge Gerald Chatham of Desoto County Circuit Court will make his ruling in the Nuckolls case Sept. 14, according to the Desoto Times Tribune in Hernando, Miss. If convicted Nuckolls would face up to five years in prison and/or $5,000 in fines for each count.
Nuckolls has already pleaded guilty to video voyeurism in Gosnell, Ark. He was arrested there last October after a woman reported to police that she discovered a video spy camera hidden in a writing pen that Nuckoll had placed in the bathroom of her home where he was staying while preaching a church revival. He also pleaded guilty to similar charges in Waldron, Ark. In both cases he received a suspended sentence and was put on probation.
Police in Seymour, Texas, have also investigated whether Nuckolls spied on women there and reportedly turned their findings over to the district attorney.
Many of Nuckolls’ alleged victims considered him a close family friend and spiritual mentor who violated their trust by filming them in private moments without their knowledge in rooms they had reason to believe were safe. A friend of one said on camera to Memphis, Tenn., station WMC-TV that she was disappointed by Friday’s hearing, because victims would have felt some justice from hearing him say “I’m guilty.”
Nuckolls remains free on bond while his attorney seeks to get some of the charges against him dismissed due to statute of limitations.
Meanwhile, a former music minister in Jackson, Miss., scheduled to stand trial July 30 on charges that he sexually abused young boys in the early 1980s after gaining their trust by volunteering at two Southern Baptist churches got a continuance until Nov. 26, according to a source familiar with the case.
John Langworthy publicly confessed to “sexual indiscretions with younger males” after he resigned as associate pastor of music and ministries at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss., last August. Before coming to the church 22 years earlier, Langworthy served on staff at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas.
A former intern who knew Langworthy at Prestonwood claims that church leaders including then-new pastor and future Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham fired Langworthy for alleged sexual misconduct but did not notify the police as required by Texas law.