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Tuesday, December 13, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Lynchburg Mayor/Methodist Church pastor accused of stealing money from a charity

Lynchburg Mayor Carl B. Hutcherson Jr. talked to reporters after appearing yesterday in U.S. District Court in Roanoke. At right is his lawyer John P. Fishwick Jr.

Lynchburg Mayor Carl B. Hutcherson Jr., who faces a variety of fraud charges, said yesterday that he is "looking forward now to clearing my name.

"With family support and support from my friends, I'm just hanging in there," Hutcherson said, shortly after a brief hearing in U.S. District Court.

Hutcherson was arrested in Roanoke after voluntarily turning himself in yesterday morning to the FBI and U.S. marshals. He was fingerprinted and a mug shot was taken as part of the arrest process.

A federal grand jury indicted Hutcherson, 61, on Dec. 1 on seven counts, though the indictment was not unsealed until last Wednesday.

He is accused of stealing $31,500 from Trinity New Life Community Development Corp., a charity connected with the church where he is pastor. He is charged with using the money to pay off a $5,000 personal debt and $22,000 in back taxes.

He is also accused of using the Social Security benefits of two disabled people whose financial affairs he managed, making false statements to federal investigators and bank officials and with obstructing a federal investigation.

Hutcherson, flanked by lawyers John P. Fishwick Jr. and John E. Lichtenstein, was released without bond after a brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael F. Urbanski.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bondurant said after the hearing that Hutcherson "is not a risk of flight. He's been here [in Virginia] his entire life."

No trial date has been set. An arraignment, in which Hutcherson is expected to enter a plea of not guilty, may be held next week.

Fishwick said the trial will be held in Lynchburg. "We're looking forward to the opportunity of trying this," he said.

An at-large member of the City Council, Hutcherson was elected mayor by fellow council members. He said yesterday that he was unsure whether he would attend tonight's regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

Hutcherson is the pastor and founder of Trinity United Methodist Church and co-owner of Carl B. Hutcherson Funeral Home. On Thursday, a day after the indictment was unsealed, Hutcherson requested a voluntary leave of absence from his church. His request must be reviewed by the Rev. Charlene Kammerer, bishop of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, the bishop's Cabinet and the conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

Hutcherson, a Lynchburg native, faces up to 105 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine if convicted of all the charges.