- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008

An iconic figure from the civil rights movement who was sentenced last month in Northern Virginia to 15 years in prison for incest has been freed on bond to pursue an appeal and likely will never spend another day in jail.

The Rev. James L. Bevel, 71, is dying from pancreatic cancer, and doctors estimate he has at most a few months to live. So, it is unlikely he will return to prison even if the conviction is upheld because an appeal will likely take 18 months or longer to resolve.

Bevel served seven months before being released on the appeal bond earlier this month.

Prosecutors in Lou-doun County, where Bevel was tried, opposed his release, saying he presented a danger to children.

“He’s dying, but the sad reality is that people die in jail every day,” prosecutor Nicole Wittmann said Wednesday.

In April, jurors convicted Bevel of incest for having sex with his then-teenage daughter in the early 1990s, while they were living in Leesburg.

The trial revealed that several of Bevel’s 16 daughters also said they had been sexually assaulted by him, and included bizarre testimony from Bevel about parents’ duty to “sexually orient” their children. However, Bevel denied that he’d had sex with his daughter.

Aaralyn Mills, the daughter whom Bevel assaulted in Leesburg, declined to comment on his release, which occurred Nov. 4.

Chevara Orrin, another daughter who prosecutors said was sexually assaulted by Bevel, said the family’s reaction has been mixed. Mrs. Orrin said she accepts his release because it has made it easier for family members who wish to meet and reconcile with him.

She also hopes his release will allow him better medical care.

“I don’t wish him any suffering or pain as a result of this horrible disease,” said Mrs. Orrin, of Winston-Salem, N.C. “I’ve forgiven him … and I’m at peace with him being released.”

Mrs. Mills and Mrs. Orrin agreed to be identified publicly.

Bevel was a top lieutenant to Martin Luther King and architect of the 1963 Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, Ala., and other pivotal moments of the civil rights movement.

In the 1960s, he was a leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, two of the organizations that led efforts to desegregate the South. In 1992, he was vice-presidential running mate to political extremist Lyndon LaRouche.

Bevel’s public defender Bonnie Hoffman said Wednesday that the prognosis of six weeks to six months Bevel gave during his sentencing hearing has not changed.

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