Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock repeatedly disrupted a 2002 police investigation into child abuse at a church-affiliated summer camp, interfering with interviews and discouraging counselors from speaking with investigators, according to two Maryland State Police reports obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The records indicate that Warnock, who was at the time senior pastor of the church that operated the camp, insisted that the camp's attorneys be present. While police said the counselors themselves were free to request an attorney, Warnock could not do so on their behalf.
Warnock went on to disrupt the interviews on July 31, 2002: "This investigator informed [camp administrators] that if the counselors requested that an attorney be present that was their right, however, no one else could [invoke] their rights to an attorney on their behalf," the report reads.
While the names in the documents are blacked out, the reports track closely with contemporaneous newspaper articles about the incident, which led to Warnock's arrest. The charges were ultimately dropped by the state attorney. The Baltimore Sun reported on Aug. 3, 2002, that Warnock and a colleague were "accused in court documents of trying to prevent a state trooper of interviewing counselors at Camp Farthest Out" and that the ministers "interrupted a police interview of a counselor." Warnock told the paper that he was "only asserting that lawyers should be present when the camp counselors were interviewed."
Warnock said in Sunday’s debate that law enforcement officers "actually later thanked me for my cooperation and for helping them," and the deputy state attorney told the Baltimore Sun the same thing in November of 2002.
But the police report paints a more complicated picture of the events. Filed by state troopers after Warnock and another reverend were arrested for "hindering and obstructing" police, the records indicate that investigators repeatedly warned Warnock to stop interfering with the investigation before he was arrested.
Warnock is locked in a tight race against Republican Kelly Loefller, who has worked to paint him as a radical out of step with Georgia voters. Loeffler has seized on Warnock's anti-police rhetoric, and the newly unearthed records threaten to complicate his efforts to portray himself as an ally of law enforcement.
The Warnock campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Maryland State Police and Child Protective Services investigators responded to allegations of child abuse taking place at Camp Farthest Out, a Maryland summer camp run by the Douglas Memorial Community Church. Warnock served as the senior pastor at the time, and sources told the Washington Free Beacon that the case pertained to allegations of physical abuse at the camp.
She said the men entered the room while investigators were interviewing counselors, demanded to sit in on interviews despite police admonitions that the participation of third parties was not permitted and ultimately directed potential witnesses not to cooperate with police.
Investigators had scheduled interviews with several counselors around 10 a.m. on July 31, according to the arresting officer. Although Warnock and camp administrators initially agreed to cooperate when investigators arrived, they soon expressed concerns about "legal ramifications from the alleged abuse case" and demanded that the camp’s attorney be present for any interviews with counselors or campers.
Tfc. Danielle Barry, a veteran investigator with the Maryland State Police’s child abuse division, wrote in her July 31, 2002, report that Warnock and another church official named Rev. Mark Andre Wainwright "interfered with a criminal investigation by interrupting interviews and directing people not to talk to investigators."
As investigators were conducting their first scheduled interview with a counselor in a private camp office, Warnock and Wainwright entered the room and "demanded that [they] be present for the interview," according to the report. Barry told them they were "not permitted to join the interview."
The reverends argued they should be allowed in the room because the subject was only 17 years old, according to the report, and Barry warned them that they were "hindering and obstructing the investigation."
Warnock then told investigators that they could no longer use the camp office for interviews. The reverends told Barry that they "did not like how things were progressing and therefore ‘they’ would not be cooperating in the case further." Barry said she again warned Warnock and Wainwright not to disrupt or interfere with the case.
"This investigator explained to the reverends that what they were doing was committing a crime for which they could be arrested," the report says.
Investigators moved to an outside picnic area to continue to conduct their scheduled meetings. A few minutes into an interview with another subject, Warnock and Wainwright "approached these investigators and the subject being interviewed" and again demanded to sit in on the interview, according to the report.
"This investigator commented to the reverends that she was surprised to see them in light of the recent conversation," wrote Barry. She said she was forced to cut the interview short due to their interference.
Shortly after, investigators were approached by a camper who tried to give them the location of another potential subject to interview. At that point, one of the reverends walked over and "grabbed the camper by the arm and directed him away from these investigators" and "told the camper that he was not to talk to these people," according to the report.
Barry said she then contacted the deputy state attorney about the interference, and a decision was made to arrest Revs. Warnock and Wainwright.
Sgt. Jim DeWees, who was Barry’s supervisor at the time, arrived at the police barracks to transport Warnock to the central booking unit until after the arrest. He noted in a subsequent police report that the reverend was "very cooperative" while being transported.
DeWees also wrote that Barry advised him that Warnock and Wainwright were "extremely uncooperative and disruptive," that they "entered a room while she was speaking to a witness" and "interfered by telling campers and counselors that they were not to speak with the police."
The run-off election is scheduled for Jan. 5.
Published under: Raphael Warnock