Megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar denies punching, choking daughter

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COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (AP) — The Rev. Creflo Dollar on Sunday staunchly denied he punched and choked his 15-year-old daughter in an argument, telling the congregation of his Atlanta-area megachurch that the allegations made in a police report are nothing but “exaggeration and sensationalism.”

“I will say this emphatically: I should have never been arrested,” Mr. Dollar said in his first public appearance two days after police charged him with misdemeanor counts of simple battery and cruelty to children.

The pastor got an enthusiastic ovation as he took the pulpit at the World Changers Church International in this Atlanta suburb. He addressed the criminal charges head-on for several minutes before moving on to his sermon.

“I want you all to hear personally from me that all is well in the Dollar household,” Mr. Dollar said.

Mr. Dollar is one of the most prominent black preachers based around Atlanta, with 30,000 members in the Atlanta area and a ministry of satellite churches across the United States.

He was arrested after his 15-year-old daughter called 911 at about 1 a.m. Friday and told a Fayette County sheriff’s deputy that she and her father argued when he said she couldn’t go to a party. A police report says the girl told a deputy her father charged at her, put his hands around her throat, began to punch her and started hitting her with his shoe. The deputy noted a scratch on her neck.

The report said the deputy also interviewed Mr. Dollar‘s 19-year-old daughter, who said her father grabbed her sister’s shoulders and slapped her in the face and choked her for about five seconds. She said her sister tried to break free but did not fight back. When her father threw the 15-year-old on the floor, the older girl ran to get her mother. Mr. Dollar’s wife, Taffi, told the deputy she did not see the fight.

Mr. Dollar launched into a lengthy denial of the allegations from the pulpit Sunday.

“The truth is that a family conversation with our youngest daughter got emotional,” he said, “and emotions got involved and things escalated from there.”

He said the mark on his daughter’s neck had been there for about 10 years and was caused by a skin condition, eczema.

“The truth is she was not choked, she was not punched. There were not any scratches on her neck,” Mr. Dollar said. “But the only thing on her neck was a prior skin abrasion from eczema. Anything else is exaggeration and sensationalism.”

Mr. Dollar‘s congregation appeared supportive Sunday, giving him sustained applause as he took the stage.

“I don’t know the full specifics, but I’ve been going here seven years and I trust my pastor,” said Robert Hooper, a 27-year-old retail manager, as he arrived at church. “I know his kids. I know he loves his family. Everybody makes mistakes.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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