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Saga’s Toll: 5 Years, $1.6M+, 1 Apology

Friday, September 12, 2014

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A Pennsylvania construction contractor once reviled by prosecutors as "despicable" and falsely accused of felony theft from a church has finally cleared his name and settled the five-year case that virtually destroyed his business.

On Tuesday (Sept. 9), Walter J. Logan Jr., 65, of Radnor, PA, settled his lawsuit against Salem Baptist Church, which had accused him in 2009 of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in what amounted to a contract dispute.

Tuesday's settlement by the church followed a $1.65 million payment and apology made to Logan four months ago by local prosecutors.

Family photo

Walter Logan (center) calls his five-year experience with a baseless felony theft charge "a nightmare" and says it ruined much of his once-successful business.

Logan took the church to arbitration in 2007 after it withdrew from a contract with his company, the Delta Organization, to build a $3.2 million family center on the church campus. Logan alleged  “groundless termination” and said the church still owed him more than $200,000.

The well-heeled church responded with a criminal complaint that accused Logan of attempting to steal the funds and of stiffing his subcontractors. The church's members include the county's treasurer and chief detective.

Political Connections

"Facing defeat in arbitration, the church used the professional and political connections of its members" to seek the charges that ended in Logan's arrest, his attorneys said.

In January 2009, Logan was walked in front of television cameras at a news conference as Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman called him a "particularly despicable" criminal who had "ripped off his subcontractors" and "stolen from a church."

Jan. 14, 2009, while Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman claimed to the assembled press that he was a “particularly despicable” criminal who had “ripped off his subcontractors” and “stolen from a church.” - See more at:
Official photo

District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman called Logan a "particularly despicable" criminal in a televised news conference that included a "perp walk" of Logan.

In the months that followed his arrest, Logan's multimillion-dollar business all but collapsed. He lost friends and colleagues, his reputation, much of his income, and some property to foreclosure, he and his lawyers say.

"We spent 40 years building a business—building a good character—and virtually in one day, that all changed," Logan told reporters later.

'Completely without Merit'

A few months after Logan's arrest, the arbitrator in the church case determined that, in fact, Salem Baptist "actually owed Logan more than $300,000" and that the church's claims of wrongdoing were "'completely without merit,'" said Logan's attorney, Mark W. Tanner.

In January 2010, prosecutors dropped the criminal charges against Logan. He then sued the prosecutor and detective for malicious prosecution, false arrest and abuse process.

In an August 2013 memorandum in the case, U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner wrote: "Unfortunately, in an attempt to gain the upper hand in the contractual dispute, Salem and its legal counsel pursued questionable criminal charges against Logan."

Joyner said that the church had "lacked probable cause to initiate the criminal proceedings" and that "sufficient evidence exists for a jury to conclude that Salem, on its own and through its legal counsel, acted unlawfully in combination with" the detective and the D.A.

Salem Baptist Church

Salem Baptist Church contracted with Walter Logan's firm to build a $3.2 million Family Life Center. The church then cancelled the contract, leading to a suit by Logan—and theft allegations by the church. An arbitrator later found that the church owed Logan $300,000.

In May 2014, the District Attorney's Office settled the case for $1.65 million and a very rare public apology.

Apology: 'No Credible Evidence'

"There is no credible evidence that Mr. Logan ever stole anything from Salem Baptist Church, and we retract any statements to that effect," the prosecutor's office said in the statement.

"After further review of the available information, which includes an award against Salem and in favor of Walter Logan in a civil arbitration hearing, the District Attorney's Office concluded that there was absolutely no credible evidence that Walter Logan committed any crime, and the charges were dropped in January of 2010.

"The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office apologizes to Mr. Logan for the arrest and any statements made to the press regarding the arrest."

Salem Baptist Church

A federal judge said Salem Baptist "pursued questionable criminal charges against" contractor Walter Logan. On Tuesday (Sept. 9), the parties settled Logan's suit against the Philadelphia-area church.

The detective in the case was fired.

Church Settlement

That still left Logan's $300 million lawsuit against the church for defamation, malicious prosecution and other allegations. The trial in that case opened Monday (Sept. 8) in federal court in Philadelphia with Salem's attorney saying the church could not be held liable for malicious prosecution because "we don't have prosecutorial power."

A day later, however, the trial abruptly ended with the announcement of a confidential settlement.

Leaving the courthouse with his wife this week, Logan told reporters, "I'm glad it's over."


Tagged categories: Business matters; Churches; Construction; Contracts; General contractors; Good Technical Practice; Lawsuits; North America; Renovation

Comment from sue howarth, (9/12/2014, 8:08 AM)

nothing like innocent until proven guilty. could of sworn I've heard that phrase before. hummmm i wonder where? sarcasm intended.

Comment from Bill Connor, Jr., (9/12/2014, 10:20 AM)

I hope they settled for a lot of money. One's personal reputation takes years to build and seconds to irreparably damage.

Comment from John Fauth, (9/15/2014, 8:36 AM)

It’s a danger sign when government officials can utilize their positions and staff as a means of intimidating others in personal disputes. How and why would it take a lawsuit to determine this allegation was utterly without merit? Do these bureaucrats lord over fiefdoms without supervision?

Comment from Andrew Piedl, (9/15/2014, 4:13 PM)

It's Philadelphia.

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