Bishop Eddie Long's ex-wife claimed in divorce papers that he was physically abusive, alleging he beat her when she was seven-and-a-half months pregnant with the couple's only child.
Dabara S. Houston said she was the victim of "cruel treatment" and was afraid of Long's "violent and vicious temper," according to Fulton County Superior Court records. She and her son "had to flee [the couple's Fairburn home] in order to ensure their safety," the documents say.
The couple was married in 1981 and separated after a couple years, according to the documents. Long's first wife made the abuse allegation in a counterclaim after he petitioned for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.
In a statement to the AJC Wednesday afternoon, Long's attorney Craig Gillen said, "The allegations of a divorce pleading that is nearly 30 years old are absolutely ‘not true.' It's offensive and disappointing that the media would drag up these outrageous allegations and make them a part of their reporting."
Four young men have accused Long, the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, of sexual coercion. He has denied the men's allegations through a spokesman and has told his congregation he plans to "vigorously" fight the charges.
Houston, now living in Statesville, North Carolina, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Her brother, Lonnie Houston, said she keeps to herself and could be anywhere -- "Statesville, Charlotte, or Atlanta," he said.
The records also reveal that Long's ex-wife failed to produce many of the documents requested during the divorce, including bank account statements and tax returns. She changed attorneys midway through the proceedings.
The settlement in March 1985 awarded custody of the couple's then 2-year-old son to the mother, with the father, then an assistant pastor at Morningstar Baptist Church, receiving visitation rights every other weekend.
Long, who went on to build New Birth into one of the nation's most influential churches, was 27 when he married Houston. Their son, Edward Long, is New Birth's youth director for junior and senior high ministries.
Besides sexual coercion, the lawsuits against Long claim he used his pastoral influence to entice the men, taking them on international trips and lavishing them with gifts.
Two have given television interviews in recent days.
Spencer LeGrande, the fourth man to sue, talked to Channel 2 Action News for an interview aired Wednesday.
LeGrande, a member of New Birth Charlotte, told Channel 2 that he decided to come forward with his story after he saw the first two lawsuits filed against Long. LeGrande, 22, contacted B.J. Bernstein, the attorney for the others, immediately after. Bernstein is representing all four men who filed suits against Long.
"I wasn't free until I came out with it," LeGrande says in the television interview. He said he does not hate Long "because God doesn't produce hate. I pray for everyone, especially the bishop, because he knows the truth."
Another plaintiff, Jamal Parris, spoke with television reporters in Colorado. Parris told WAGA-TV in an interview aired Tuesday that he loved the Lithonia pastor but now considers him "a monster."
"This man manipulated us from childhood," Parris told WAGA-TV, who interviewed the 23-year-old outside a Colorado grocery store. "This was our father and we loved him."
Parris said Long "turned his back on us when he had no more need for us. That's not a man. That's a predator."
"I cannot get the sound of his voice out of my head," he said. "I cannot forget the smell of his cologne. And I cannot forget the way that he made me cry many nights when I drove in his car on the way home, not able to take enough showers to wipe the smell of him off of my body."
On Wednesday, Long's attorney fought back through the media, accusing the plaintiffs and Bernstein of "attempting to try their lawsuits in the media."
"There are rules on how civil litigation is to take place and how counsel should conduct themselves, we intend to follow those rules," Long's lawyer Gillen said in a statement about the televised interview with Parris.
Bernstein said she did not authorize the Parris interview.
Long, speaking to his congregation at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church Tuesday night, did not directly address the sexual allegations made against him.
"I'm not speaking about the individuals and all of that," he said, according to Channel 2 Action News. "This is spiritual warfare."
Long said that if he thought people believed media reports on the scandal, "I'd be scared to show up, I'd be scared to look at you. But there's something in me bigger than the situation."
A group of 32 ministers attended the Lithonia church Tuesday night to pray with Long and show their support for the embattled pastor.
--Staff writer Megan Matteucci contributed to this article.