August 29, 1990
Northwest; pg. B4
Julie Emery


"Church's Chief Faces Child-Porn Charges"

The Rev. Jay Gearon's troubles with the law have moved beyond the operations of the Ultimate Life Church to include personal criminal charges of possessing photographs of an 11-year-old girl in sexually explicit poses.
The minister is accused of taking most of the hundreds of photos seized in a search of his Bellevue home on June 16, 1989, according to charges filed yesterday in King County Superior Court. He will be arraigned Sept. 6 on two gross-misdemeanor counts of possession of depictions of minors in sexually explicit conduct.
Deputy Prosecutor Jeffrey Baird said the girl appears unclothed except for a scarf around her waist in part of the photo series. In five of the photos the girl appeared alone in a sexually provocative manner, Baird said.
The girl's genitals also were exposed in another photo showing her dancing with a partially clothed transvestite, the prosecutor said in court papers. Other photos in the series show the girl being embraced by the transvestite, Baird said.
A federal grand jury is continuing to investigate the financial dealings of the Bellevue-based church. Authorities who raided church facilities, the Gearon home and a storage facility last summer alleged that the church and its satellite facilities are fronts for prostitution, which Gearon, 46, and his wife, Jolene, deny. The Gearons say the seizures are impeding their constitutional rights to the free exercise of their religion. They also deny that part of the operations involved a massage parlor.
Gearon yesterday said he has been advised by his attorney not to comment on the criminal charges until his arraignment. Jolene Gearon, however, described the charges as "an outrage" and "grossly unfair."
"We've been involved with nudist clubs for years," she said. "Nudity in the home is a real natural occurrence for us." "It's all about vengeance," she said of the charges.
Baird said that because the alleged victim is now an adult and the statute of limitations has run out, his office cannot file a more serious felony charge of sexual exploitation of a minor.
The items seized last year also included membership records, fur mitts, rubber chickens, a Bible, feather dusters, cassette tapes, condoms and inflatable lips. Some of the items that are duplicates were returned by prosecutors after court battles.
The Internal Revenue Service also is investigating the church, which at the time of the raid was believed to include eight Puget Sound-area satellites. Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the King County prosecutor's office, said accusations leveled yesterday are the first criminal charges in the multi-jurisdictional investigation. Other charges are being considered, Donohoe said. Peter Nault, the Gearsons' attorney, also argued earlier that the church is being unjustly deprived of its property as a result of the seizures.
The church bills itself as an alternative ministry providing a spiritual approach to life for people who reject traditional values and avenues to worship. Services are designed to support and nurture people as human beings as well as emphasize a belief that body, mind and spirit are one, Nault said.
 Gearon is free on his personal recognizance.