Jerry Jones, a South Side bishop who previously served as the assistant commissioner of the Chicago Fire Department, was charged with sexually abusing three minors, including two nieces who came forward years after the alleged abuse took place.
Jones, 71, of Olympia Fields, turned himself over to the Chicago police Friday and was charged with three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, authorities said.
During his initial court hearing Sunday, prosecutors noted that Jones serves as a bishop of both the Apostolic Assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Far South Side and the Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith International. The website of the latter church, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, describes Jones as the diocesan of its Illinois State Council.
The Apostolic Assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ, 10708 S. Vincennes Ave., has served as a campaign stop for some Chicago politicians, including former mayoral candidate and U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.
Jones and representatives for his church and the Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith International didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Prosecutors said Jones began abusing two of his nieces when they were just 5 and 6 years old, respectively. At the time of the alleged abuse, which stretched roughly a decade in both cases, the girls lived with Jones and his wife, who was their legal guardian.
In addition to allegedly touching the victims inappropriately, Jones at one point forced them to strip naked and bend over so he could punish them for arguing with one another, prosecutors said. A cousin witnessed that incident and saw them standing naked with Jones, who also used scripture and African traditions to “coerce” them into allegedly letting him take their virginities.
The women, now ages 34 and 30, were reticent to report the abuse because they didn’t want to “end up in the system without their aunt’s guardianship,” prosecutors said.
Last November, they both came forward to family members, prosecutors said. In June, one of them wrote on Facebook that Jones abused her and other members of her family and church.
Another victim, described as a 21-year-old woman, expressed an interest in preaching when she began attending one of Jones’ churches when she was just 10, according to prosecutors. Jones allegedly began inappropriately touching her after she turned 11.
As part of the continued sexual abuse, Jones is alleged to have solicited nude photographs from the girl and used Bible verses to talk to her about sex, prosecutors said. The abuse continued and intensified until she was 17, when she reported Jones to a minister who then alerted the bishop’s wife to the allegations.
The victim ultimately left the church when she and Jones were both placed on a “restoration plan” that sought to punish them both and resolve the issue internally, prosecutors said.
In June, she saw the other victims’ Facebook post and filed a police report, prosecutors said. After police interviewed all three women, Jones surrendered to authorities on Friday. Police wouldn’t confirm whether a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Jones’ 28-year career as a firefighter ended in 2005 when he retired from his dual role as assistant fire commissioner and chief officer of diversity. Based on the timelines presented by prosecutors, Jones’ alleged abuse of his nieces occurred while he was still working for the Fire Department.
Thomas Breen, Jones’ private attorney, argued that his client should be released from custody while he awaits trial, claiming that he doesn’t pose a flight risk and noting that he has no prior arrest record. Breen added that Jones denies the accusations and claimed there may be “retaliatory motives” for bringing the allegations now.
Judge Charles Beach set Jones’ bail at $50,000. His next court date was set for Friday.