A popular Alabama youth pastor with key connections to high-profile evangelical figures has been accused of molesting a young boy, police say.
Acton Bowen, who founded Acton Bowen Outreach, was arrested Tuesday and charged with alleged second-degree sodomy, enticing a child to enter a vehicle or house for immoral purposes, and second-degree sex abuse, AL.com reports. Bowen, 37, a resident of Southside, Alabama, is a married and the author of several books. He’s also a public speaker.
Officers from the Hoover Police Department arrested him and the case will be prosecuted by the Jefferson County District Attorney, Heavy.com reports.
In a statement Wednesday, Bowen denied the allegations, saying he is “hurt, confused and heartbroken,” over the allegations.
“I have not done what I am accused of and have not acted inappropriately in any way,” he said. “My family and I trust the legal system and the people who are entrusted with the duty of the protection of each of our rights. I believe the truth will stand and I will be vindicated of this false accusation. We ask that each of you keep everyone involved in this process in your prayers.”
Hoover police arrested Bowen, who faces up to 31 years in prison, on April 10 after conducting an investigation that lasted three weeks. Warrants for his arrest were issued on Monday, police said.
A well-known youth evangelist was booked into the Jefferson County jail overnight. Police say Acton Bowen is accused of sexually abusing a family member under the age of 16. Hear more on the case coming up this morning on @WVTM13 pic.twitter.com/uw5qYIzOeP
— Sarah Killian (@SarahWVTM13) April 11, 2018
“This is certainly one of the more disturbing cases that we’ve investigated in quite some time,” said Hoover Police Captain Greg Rector to AL.com. “Mr. Bowen is in a highly respected position of influence and he is trusted by many. We believe he betrayed that trust in the worst kind of way.”
Rector added that the alleged victim, a family acquaintance of Bowen’s, “is currently doing well and has been in a safe environment since police were first notified.”
Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said police conducted a comprehensive investigation.
“When we first learned of these accusations we wanted to make sure we investigated thoroughly in order to get the truth. The victim in this case is a brave young man and he should be commended for coming forward. He and his family deserve our best effort and we believe that we’ve accomplished that. We will continue to work on their behalf as this troubling case progresses.”
Alabama law states that a person commits second-degree sodomy if “He, being 16 years or older, engages in deviate sexual intercourse with another person less than 16 and more than 12 years old,” Heavy.com notes, or “He engages in deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is incapable of consent by reason of being mentally defective.”
The enticement law states:
“It shall be unlawful for any person with lascivious intent to entice, allure, persuade or invite, or attempt to entice, allure, or persuade or invite any child under 16 years of age to enter any vehicle, room, house, office or other place for the purpose of proposing to such child the performance of an act of sexual intercourse or an act which constitutes the offense of sodomy or for the purpose of proposing of fondling or feeling of the sexual or genital parts of such child, or the breast of such child, or for the purpose of committing an aggravated assault on such child, or for the purpose of proposing that such child fondle or feel the sexual or genital parts of such person.”
Lastly, second-degree sexual abuse occurs, according to state law, if a person “being 19 years old or older, subjects another person to sexual contact who is less than 16 years old, but older than 12 years old.”
Bowen was taken into custody at the Hoover City Jail on those charges and then transferred to the Jefferson County Jail. After posting $90,300 bail, he was released Wednesday morning. It’s not clear when he will appear in court, and it’s also not clear if he has hired an attorney at this point.
But one this is clear: Bowen has some prominent friends in high places. On his website, which has since been removed, he listed several pastors, student preachers, and other ministers as being part of his Acton Bowen Outreach Ministry.
He and his wife Ashley Nabors Bowen were married in Hawaii in 2015, and the marriage was presided over by Bowen’s friend and colleague, Pastor Jay Haizlip, who starred in the Oxygen Network’s now-canceled Preachers of L.A. And Bowen has been a frequent speaker at Haizlip’s megachurch, “The Sanctuary Church,” in California.
Unsurprisingly, Bowen has claimed he was a regular contributor on Fox News, and also unsurprisingly, that did not sit well with the network, and a rebuttal, in the form of a statement, was swift.
“Paul Edward Acton Bowen is not, and has never been an employee, correspondent, or contributor at Fox News.”
Bowen, an avowed Trump supporter (you were expecting anything else?), said he rarely posts on the social media, but when he does, it should be noted he posts reprehensible tweets like the one below.
This "women's" march in DC is one of the most disgusting and pathetic displays of ignorance I've ever seen in my life!
— Acton Bowen (@actonbowen) January 21, 2017
And he has connections to Trent Garmon, the attorney for former Republican Senate candidate (wait for it) and State Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore. Garmon is conveniently on the Acton Bowen Outreach Board of Directors. The Gadsden Times notes that Moore and Garmon, both Gadsden natives, appeared at an event, “Awake America” in 2015. Where Bowen, ahem, also spoke.
Just hung up w friend, attorney & ABO board member Trent Garmon. I love the ABO staff, board and interns. I'm blessed with a top shelf team!
— Acton Bowen (@actonbowen) February 11, 2013
Bowen also has connections to evangelist Scott Dawson, who’s running on the Republican ticket for Alabama governor. Dawson is also listed as an advisor on Bowen’s now-deleted website. Heavy.com notes Bowen has also endorsed Dawson on his Instagram account.
@RobinsonCarol any comment from Republican Governor candidate Scott Dawson who serves as an advisor to Bowen? Or Roy Moore attorney Trenton Garmon who serves on board? #alpolitics pic.twitter.com/4HwfisALi8
— Rufus T. Firefly (@BamaIndependent) April 11, 2018
Bowen maintains he is innocent.
“When this accusation was made known to me, I was hurt, confused and heartbroken,” he told AL.com. “Prior to the arrest, only one side of the story was heard.”
One thing is certain. When Bowen has his day in court, that side of the story will be heard more fully, and if the allegations are true, the young victim will hopefully have some measure of closure.
Here’s WVTM 13’s video on the charges below.
Featured image by WVTM 13 News via YouTube video