A grand jury in March heard the facts of an investigation into Perry Stone and declined to charge him with a crime or take any other action, according to 10th Judicial District Attorney General Stephen Crump, a significant development in the case roughly three years after several women accused the prominent Cleveland-based televangelist of sexual misconduct.
Crump said, despite the grand jury's decision, the allegations of the Perry Stone case concerned him and that the file on it will remain open.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation delivered a report on the allegations to Crump, who as district attorney for Bradley, Polk, McMinn and Monroe counties, had requested the inquiry.
In October, Crump said he had completed his review of the TBI probe, and on March 1, his office presented the findings of the TBI investigation to a Bradley County grand jury, Crump said by phone Monday.
"They heard a case presented against Perry Stone and determined there were no charges," he said.
The Bradley County Sheriff's Office, which had cut ties to Stone's ministries pending the TBI investigation, quickly took note. On March 24, sheriff's deputies were told they could, once again, perform extra and off-duty services at the Stone-affiliated Omega Center International and for the Voice of Evangelism ministry, Sheriff's Office spokesperson Paul Allen said by email Monday.
Grand juries deliberate in secret on whether there is probable cause to charge someone with a crime. Sometimes, prosecutors bring the grand jury a potential indictment and ask whether to proceed with it. In such circumstances, the structure of the potential criminal case is usually mostly completed, and the grand jury typically returns a relatively straightforward true bill or a no bill -- indicating whether to file the indictment.
Stone's case was considered under a more open-ended format in which prosecutors present a grand jury with the facts of a case and ask them how to proceed.
"It gives them a lot more latitude as to how they want to handle it," Crump said.
In such cases, grand juries can investigate and seek more information -- calling a witness, for example. Sometimes they end up presenting criminal charges. Or, as in Stone's case, they can decide not to take any action on the case at all.
The prosecutions' presentation on the case against Stone and the grand jury's deliberation took more than an hour in total -- far longer than usual, Crump said.
The fact that the grand jury ultimately decided to take no action does not necessarily mean his office is done with the case, Crump said.
"I was concerned with the nature of the allegations and the evidence that was produced," Crump said, adding that it's not uncommon to leave cases open because of the potential that new information may emerge.
Crump is planning to step down in July to take a position as executive director of the Tennessee District Attorney Generals Conference, a statewide administrative agency for DAs, and he said he wants to give his successor the chance to determine how to proceed.
In an emailed statement to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Voice of Evangelism spokesperson John Rodriguez said neither Perry Stone, the ministry leadership team, nor any of its staff have been contacted by the district attorney, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation or any other investigative entity, but that they had learned that the investigation did not yield an indictment.
"Unfounded accusations and blatant lies have been made about Perry Stone and Voice of Evangelism for the past three years," Rodriguez wrote. "Yet the mission of love for people has never stopped nor wavered. We are committed to continue to share the love of Jesus with a hurting world."
In 2020, the Voice of Evangelism board of directors confronted Stone after receiving 12 letters from women employed by or connected to Stone's ministries, the Times Free Press reported.
The letters described allegations of sexual misconduct against Stone, the newspaper said. Those allegations included groping, showing that he was aroused, asking women about their breasts and unwanted kissing, the newspaper reported.
High-level members of the ministry were disgusted by the alleged sexual misconduct, according to recordings of their private meetings obtained by the Times Free Press.
One of the men, a Bradley County Sheriff's Office lieutenant, James Bradford, who was Stone's head of security, said on one of the recordings that Stone exhibited a "predatory lifestyle," the newspaper reported.
One ministry leader, Brian Cutshall, said in a recording to an alleged victim, "I think we all know that Perry has a severe problem, probably a mental illness that needs to be dealt with at some point, that has to be dealt with now," according to the recordings.
In a statement during the Times Free Press investigation, Rodriguez said the Voice of Evangelism board conducted an "appropriate and intensive" internal investigation of the allegations. He said the board created a restoration plan in the spring of 2020, which included professional counseling and Stone's extended absence from ministry.
And in a subsequent statement, he said the quotes drawn from the recordings of the high-level ministry figures weren't what they seemed to be.
"In the heat of the moment and with emotions running high, words that were expressed in a private setting out of sincere concern for Perry are now being used to malign the ministry," Rodriguez wrote.
At a gathering at Omega Center International, in October of 2020, Stone, reported having dealt with depression and a spiritual attack. From the pulpit in November 2021, Stone suggested allegations against him were misinterpreted, the Times Free Press reported.
"People have taken me hugging and kissing them on the cheek wrong. I quit that. I'm Italian. My whole family holds hands, rubs backs. I didn't know you can look at somebody and say, 'Hey, how you doing?' and they can take it wrong," Stone told his audience, according to the newspaper.
In late 2021, the Times Free Press reported the FBI was investigating Stone, and in early 2022, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation confirmed it was looking into the televangelist at Crump's request.
In October, Crump said he had completed his review of the investigation and would soon decide how to proceed. His assistant presented the case to Bradley County's March 1 grand jury, he said.
Today, Stone has more than half a million followers on his Facebook page, which sells products and posts about his talks and prophesies. Later this month, he's set to headline the Prophetic Summit at Omega Center International.