A Bessemer City pastor charged with sexual battery heads to
court Dec. 7.
Harley Michael Keough, 72, pastor of King James Baptist
Church in Bessemer City, was charged Nov. 13 with five counts of sexual battery
and held on a $50,000 secured bond.
Against Keough’s advice, church members posted his bond.
He has been leading the church since 1999. He receives no
salary, and, with Social Security as his only income, asked for a public defender.
Keough is accused of fondling women who came to the church’s
food bank in need of help. The incidents allegedly happened between September
2006 and October 2009.
“I think anyone who would go into a food bank or a church
facility or any other institution of trust and have something like this occur
would be surprised and horrified,” said Gaston County Police Capt. Joe Ramey in
the Shelby Star. “The potential is there that there are more victims we are not
The women Keogh is accused of groping range in age from 23
Sexual battery is a Class A1 misdemeanor and is defined as
engaging in sexual contact “by force and against the will of the other person”
or when that person is incapacitated or mentally disabled. The charge usually
involves unwelcome touching.
A military veteran and retired sous chef, Keough said he
feared for the future of the church’s food ministry program now that money has
been used to pay his bond.
If the power bill goes unpaid, the ministry’s 20 freezers
could shut off and spoil what is meant for the hungry, he said. In a Gaston
Gazette story, Keough said he had pastored in the county for 35 years and never
drawn a salary.
The district attorney said the case is still forming and
indicated there might be other charges at a later date.
“They’ve already killed me, crucified me, buried me. They’ve
already got me tried,” Keough said of the media in a Gaston Gazette story. He
said he is being set up.