Jim Bakker was found liable by a jury Friday for more than $129 million damages in a lawsuit filed by former PTL religious contributors. His fellow defendants were found to be not at fault.
The federal jury deliberated for close to 28 hours over five days before reaching its decision.The lawsuit's other defendants - Big 8 accounting firm Deloitte, Haskins & Sells; David Taggart, Bakker's former personal aide; and Aimee Cortese, a minister from New York who served on PTL's board of directors - were not liable, the jury ruled.
The civil suit, which totaled $757 million when it was filed in 1987, alleged Bakker conspired with other PTL officials and accountants to set up secret bank accounts to give Bakker; his wife, Tammy; and other ministry leaders huge bonuses.
Plaintiffs in the class-action suit were some 145,000 PTL lifetime partners, or major contributors who were told their donations would buy them lifetime time-share rights at Bakker's Heritage USA religious theme park.
The jury said Bakker should pay $129,618,000 in actual damages and $129,618 in punitive damages. The jury said Bakker, who earns 12 cents an hour working at a prison hospital, would be required to pay punitive damages because he committed common law fraud.
Bakker resigned from his Fort Mill, S.C., ministry on March 19, 1987, amid a sex and money scandal involving Jessica Hahn, a former New York church secretary.