Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lawsuits lead to spectacle at Without Walls International Church in Tampa

TAMPA — Television cameras descended on Without Walls International Church on Thursday for back-to-back news conferences about a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against the head pastor's son.

Outside at noon: the accuser, Joshua Brian Randolph, a 24-year-old computer repair technician from Georgia who said Brandon White sent him e-mails calling him a "n-----" five times.

Inside at 1:30 p.m.: Barry Cohen, the church attorney, who described what he called proof that the suit was a "racial con job."

There were standing ovations.

There were shouts of praise.

There were threats of more lawsuits.

There was no indication this would end any time soon.

• • •

Here's a primer: In July, Without Walls officials began having conversations with someone they thought was former NBA player and coach Avery Johnson, who said he wanted to start a youth ministry at the church. The supposed Johnson said he would send his representative, Randolph, to pave the way.

In August, Randolph arrived. Within a few days, he had a dispute with Brandon White about the use of a church vehicle. Both sides agree on that much.

Randolph claims that White made offensive racial jokes. The church says that its officials soon became suspicious after Randolph didn't know facts about Johnson.

Earlier this month, Randolph filed a federal lawsuit alleging that White sent him e-mails with racial epithets. He provided the Times with e-mails sent from Yahoo and Gmail accounts. He also filed a civil claim for $4,200 he said he was owed for his hotel stay, wages and other expenses, which the church says it never agreed to pay.

On Wednesday, an attorney for Johnson released a statement saying the famous athlete didn't know Randolph and had never contacted Without Walls. The e-mails and text messages the church got? Fake, the attorney said. Investigators working for Cohen traced the phone number to Randolph's computer repair business.

When told a simple Internet search reveals the link, Randolph continued to deny he ever had that number. He called the Johnson impersonation argument a distraction from the racism allegations.

"They deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, and then they end up settling everything out of court," Randolph told the Times.

The next day, before a conference room full of church members and reporters, Cohen would capitalize on that quote as an indicator Randolph wanted money out of the church.

• • •

Cohen spoke with the inflection of a preacher.

"I've got news for Josh Randolph," he said.

"Amen!" someone bellowed.

"There ain't gonna be no settlement," he said. "He's going to end up in prison for these hate crimes that he committed."

Cohen said the proof that Randolph posed as Johnson is evidence that he also posed as White in the e-mails — that and a polygraph test Cohen said White passed.

Brandon White, 26, spoke publicly about the case for the first time. He said he can't look at people without wondering if they believe the allegations. He said he hasn't been able to sleep.

Then, his mother spoke. Paula White said she started the church to promote racial harmony.

"We're drawing the line and saying enough is enough," she said. She turned to Cohen and told him, "Use the legal system as far as you can, as hard as you can and as long as you can."

• • •

Outside earlier that day, Randolph stood alone. He said he took his own polygraph test, and that it proved he was telling the truth.

"Money never crossed my mind," he said. "Exposure crossed my mind. I wanted Tampa to know these people are racists."

He added, "I'm not going to make this a media frenzy."

Then, he passed out some copies:

The racist e-mails. A page he said was missing from his discrimination lawsuit in which he now asks for $2 million.

An exchange from an Internet forum in which someone claims to have an incriminating video of the Whites.

And a letter from an anonymous person making claims about Paula White's personal life, touching on her son's paternity, allegations of adultery and the "use" and "abuse" of "hundreds of faithful friends."

Randolph ended with an announcement: He planned to file a federal lawsuit against Barry Cohen that afternoon. He did.

For defamation.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Lawsuits lead to spectacle at Without Walls International Church in Tampa 10/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 23, 2009 11:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida education news: School grades, teacher pay, transgender lawsuit and more

    Blogs

    SCHOOL GRADES: Florida's school grades showed improvement as the state's revised accountability system entered its third year in its current form. …

    Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates her school's A grade with students in a summer program at the school.
  2. Whiskey wasn't my thing, but then I visited the Teeling Distillery in Ireland

    Travel

    DUBLIN

    If you drink your way through a four-day trip to Ireland, can you make an honest recommendation on anything?

    The focal point of the Teeling Whiskey Distillery in Dublin is the copper pots used in the process.
  3. Faulty AC leaves Chinsegut manor house, supporters steaming

    Human Interest

    BROOKSVILLE

    As summer temperatures climb, volunteers at Chinsegut Hill Manor House say a faulty air-conditioning system has put them in a hot spot.

    Thomas Hoops of Tampa, left, takes a breather with his 1-year-old daughter, Zoe Hoops, on the porch of the Chinsegut Hill Manor House.
  4. Looking Back: Adele and her baby koala come out of hiding (December 27, 1991)

    Attractions

    This story appeared in the pages of the St. Petersburg Times on December 27, 1991. What follows is the text of the original story, interspersed with photos of the event taken by Times staff photographer Tony Lopez.

    BABY KOALA IS NOW OUT OF POCKET

    By Amber Grimes

    Times staff …

    Kunara, Busch Garden's shy baby koala, has been working his way out of his mother Adele's pouch since his birth.

TIMES | Tony Lopez
  5. Large brush fire burning in Brooker Creek Preserve near Westchase

    Fire

    A large brush fire is burning early Thursday morning in the Brooker Creek Preserve just north of Oldsmar near Westchase, but appears to be contained, according to reports.