On the heels of the Creflo Dollar child abuse case, another very public family cruelty case is rocking the black church/gospel music community. Award-winning gospel artist James Fortune (of James Fortune and Fiya) is being sued, along with his wife, Cheryl, for burning his then-4-year-old stepson over 47 percent of his body in 2001. In 2003, Fortune pleaded guilty to the incident, which occurred after the toddler colored on a table at school, and Fortune punished him by hitting him with a switch, and then making him bathe in scalding water. He received six years deferred adjudication for felony injury of a child.
Now, the boy’s biological father is suing the Fortunes for $5 million in a civil suit. He says the money will be used for his son, now 15, who needs plastic surgery to correct the scarring and disfigurement he’s lived with for 11 years.
For his part, James Fortune has released a public statement:
“I recently became aware of a civil suit pending against my wife, Cheryl Fortune, and I for an incident that occurred in 2001 involving my stepson. There was a criminal investigation and all matters were resolved in 2003. Since that time, my family and I, including my stepson, have continued with family traditions and always have a loving family environment.”
“We are shocked by this lawsuit but understand people are free to use the court system to pursue claims, whether they contain merit or baseless matters,” he said. “We are confident through this process, if it proceeds to a judge or jury, the ultimate decision maker will render a decision that is favorable to the circumstances and timing surrounding this situation.
“We believe in our American justice system and know it will work for us as it has for millions of other Americans. I love all my children, including my stepson, and I ask for your prayers as we deal with this matter privately. Thank you for your continued support for me, my family, and ministry.”
It is likely the civil suit is occurring so long after the initial incident because the Fortune family is in a better financial position to compensate for the son’s injuries now. Fortune has discussed his family’s dire money woes, which led to the writing of his number one hit, “I Trust You.” Since then, Fortune and his group have become a sought-after gospel commodity.