From the New York Daily News’ Michael O’Keefe.
Ernest Lorch, once the most powerful man in New York City youth basketball before he was sidelined by sexual abuse allegations, has once again been accused of molesting a former player.
In an explosive lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court yesterday that seeks at least $10 million, David Powell alleges Lorch sexually abused him for several years during the 1980s while Powell was a member of the famed Riverside Church basketball program. The Riverside Church also has been named as a defendant.
Frederick Cohn, Lorch’s attorney, denied there was ever sexual contact between his client and Powell. “As far as I’m concerned, this is a stickup,” Cohn said.
Powell’s suit claims that Lorch, a multimillionaire attorney, promised to provide financial support for the rest of his life as long as he kept their sexual relationship secret. Brenner said Lorch paid Powell to run errands and serve as his driver, but he did not give Powell enough money to start a business and become independent of Lorch. “Lorch was going to be the big daddy, he said he would take care of him, but he didn’t follow through,” said Brenner, who represented Holmes on the gun charges but was not involved in his civil suit. “David did not want to live like that. He was tired of being Lorch’s puppet.”
As the Daily News reported in 2002, another former Hawks player named Louis Garcia also said that Lorch had abused him during the 1980s. Garcia did not file a lawsuit against Lorch, however, and said he never accepted any money from Lorch.
Lorch was the focus of a 2002 sex-abuse investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, but criminal charges were never filed against him. Church officials ordered him to step down from the program, which he founded at the Riverside Church in 1961 to provide recreational opportunities to Harlem kids. The program sent dozens of players – including Ron Artest, Elton Brand, Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson – to the NBA and scores of players to Division I schools.
After two years of twisting in the wind – never charged, never convicted and never cleared – Lorch demanded to be reinstated. When church officials refused, he left Riverside and started a new program called the Metro Hawks.
In the above article, O’Keefe also cites a lawsuit by former Riverside Hawk Robert Holmes, who claims a $2 million business loan from Lorch in 1997 was hush money, alleging sexual abuse at Lorch’s hands in the prior decade.
In addition to the megastars noted by O’Keefe, Riverside’s past players also include Tiny Archibald, Kenny Anderson, Malik Sealy, Kenny Smith and Rod Strickland.