DALLAS – Texas church Pastor Greg Johnson pleaded guilty on Thursday to misdemeanor charges of abusing his authority, according to court records.
Johnson, 52, was sentenced to four years in federal prison for violating the civil rights of his gay and lesbian friends and relatives.
The sentencing was part of an agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Johnson’s attorney, which also included the dismissal of two civil rights complaints.
The Justice Department announced the agreement on July 24.
Johnson had faced two civil lawsuits filed by his gay friend and former wife, who had sued Johnson and his ministry.
The cases were filed in March 2016 by a gay couple who said they were discriminated against in Johnson’s congregation and were denied housing by the pastor.
The civil lawsuits allege Johnson violated their civil rights by denying them housing, employment and services and retaliating against them for reporting alleged abuse.
The federal lawsuit alleged Johnson abused his power and violated the Constitution by refusing to remove the pastor’s name from the church’s website and denying him the opportunity to perform at his annual wedding.
Johnson was charged with a single count of misdemeanor abuse of authority stemming from the March 2016 civil suits.
Johnson said he is “very sorry” and will continue to serve his church and his community.
Johnson, who is a Baptist minister who grew up in a predominantly black church in Dallas, served as pastor of First Baptist Dallas in Denton and later moved to the city.
He was elected pastor in 2003 and led the church until his death in October 2017.
In a statement released on Thursday, First Baptist said Johnson served “his God-given calling to lead a church that has been and continues to be a beacon of hope in a nation where we must be strong to protect all of our brothers and sisters.”
Johnson’s wife, Mary Ann, also of Dallas, filed a civil lawsuit against Johnson in December 2016, alleging that she had been fired for complaining to the Dallas Police Department about abuse at the church.
After the civil lawsuits were filed, Johnson told reporters that he had been in therapy since being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
He said he was seeking treatment for his mental health issues, and that he would not be able to lead the church for the next few months.
“This has been an ongoing process,” Johnson said at a news conference on Thursday.
“I’m in treatment.
I’m in counseling.
I have to be.
I can’t run the church.”
Johnson’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Leslie Adler)