Embattled pastor didn't admit '75 guilty plea, records show

The Seattle Times/August 11, 1988
By Carol M. Ostrom

The Rev. Donald Lee Barnett, who has claimed under oath in an ongoing lawsuit that he has never pleaded guilty or been convicted of a crime, pleaded guilty to exposing himself to maids in a hotel hallway 13 years ago in Las Vegas, according to police reports.

Barnett said through a spokeswoman yesterday that he had "no comment at this time" on the incident.

Barnett was ousted earlier this years by elders of the Community Chapel and Bible and Training Center near Burien after allegations of sexual improprieties with women church members. He was subsequently reinstalled as pastor by a Superior Court judge, who told the warring factions that their dispute should not be settled by the court.

The pastor is named in a civil lawsuit in King County by three former church members who allege that he engaged in sexual relationships with them under the guise of ministerial counseling. In papers filed in that case, set for trial next spring, Barnett claimed under oath that he had never pleaded guilty to nor been convicted of a crime.

But according to police reports in Clark County, Nev., Nov. 23, 1975, Barnett masturbated in front of four maids in the hallway of the Circus Circus Hotel.

Police were called and Barnett gave then his name, address, and other identifying information, according to the files.

The initial charge of indecent exposure, a gross misdemeanor, was downgraded to "open and gross lewdness," and Barnett pleaded guilty to the charge, paying a fine of $100, according to police records. The case was closed on April 30, 1976.

Community Chapel, a large, independent church near Burien, has been torn by opposing groups since mid-1986, when elders of the church began resigning over Barnett's teachings. The most controversial is his advocacy of "spiritual connections" between men and women married to others.

Up until the past two years, the self-ordained pastor attracted about 4,500 followers, including those worshipping at 22 satellite churches.

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