Former Jacksonville pastor released from jail amid capital sexual battery charges

Defense seeks to dismiss charges citing lack of evidence

Paul Dyal, pastor of Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ Church, has been charged with capital sexual battery. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The former pastor of the Jacksonville Assembly of the Body in Christ Church was released from jail Friday and now is being treated in a medical facility.

Paul Dyal faces capital sexual battery charges from allegations that survivors said happened decades ago.

MORE | ‘It became our normal’: 8 women say they endured mental, physical abuse from Jacksonville church leaders

His bond was set at $50,000 per victim, so $100,000 total.

Here are the terms of release granted by the court:

  • Electronic monitoring with GPS
  • No contact with any victims or witnesses in the case
  • No contact with minors
  • Must live in Jacksonville at the homes of two people named by the court. If those two are not available, others can be submitted for consideration
  • No court dates waived after release from hospital without court approval
  • Cannot leave Clay, Duval, Nassau counties without court approval

Cynthia Crawford, who advocates for the alleged survivors in the case, said Dyal’s release isn’t an indication of a problem with the prosecutor’s case.

“The judge clearly feels confident that the conditions that she has imposed on Paul Dyal’s release are sufficient to ensure that he will appear in court to face those charges, as this case does move forward,” said Crawford. “The victims are concerned, however, about an unintended consequence of Paul’s release. And that is his reappearance in the church community will allow him to wield personal influence and have a silencing effect on other victims that are still in the church and their willingness to come forward.”

Dyal’s defense has fought to have him released before, but the judge denied it.

The battery and molestation allegations stem back decades. A victim said they reported the alleged assault to the FBI in 1997 and 2003. A notice of filing from the defense includes a letter from the FBI saying they were unable to locate those records.

Defense attorney Belkis Plata, who’s not affiliated with the case, said the filings are proving their point of a lack of evidence.

“It’s to the point of the defense that they’re exhausting everything that’s available to them to prepare an adequate defense for their client, and they’re not going to be able to because the information is gone or doesn’t exist anymore,” said Plata.

According to a notice of child hearsay in March of 2023, a witness said she had no memory of Dyal committing any act of sexual abuse against her. Then in May, she swore under oath she told another person he molested her.

One person who made allegations first accused a relative of Dyal’s and then in a later deposition that changed to Dyal.

News4JAX asked Plata if it seems like this case is falling apart.

“I think the longer the case continues to go, the stronger their argument will be that there is nothing here that we can use to defend our client,” said Plata.

Plata said this is not a rare occurrence for these types of cases. It’s often why some survivors don’t come forward.

“If the case gets dismissed, it’s going to be because the judge found the procedural issue and dismisses it for that reason, not because it didn’t necessarily happen,” said Plata.

The state filed a motion to continue in March saying they can’t thoroughly depose 30 defense witnesses before the April 24 trial date.

No new date has been set but Crawford believes the case is going forward.

“It is the defense attorney’s job to zealously advocate for his client and that is what he is doing. And the state attorney will zealously advocate for the victims and for the state of Florida,” said Crawford.

There will be a hearing on the motion on June 9.

Jerome Teschendorf and Vernon Williamson face similar charges in the case, and both are also awaiting trial.

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A Florida-born, Emmy Award winning journalist and proud NC A&T SU grad