Evangelist, 33, pleads guilty to voyeurism
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Sammy Nuckolls, a 33-year-old evangelist who spoke for years at Southern Baptist youth gatherings, has pleaded guilty to charges of video voyeurism in two Arkansas towns. He now is facing charges in Texas and has been granted extra time to accept a plea bargain on similar charges in Mississippi.
In Gosnell, Ark., Nuckolls also pleaded guilty to video voyeurism after videotaping a woman undressing in her home where he was staying while preaching a revival last fall. He was put on probation there for three years.
In Seymour, Texas, Nuckolls was charged recently with one count of improper photography or visual recording with multiple victims. The case has been forwarded to the district attorney, and a grand jury will determine whether there is enough evidence to prosecute the case, a representative of Seymour's police department told Baptist Press.
Nuckolls originally pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of video voyeurism in Olive Branch, Miss., with each count carrying a maximum sentence of five years. He was to face a June 25 trial date there and had until May 31 to accept a plea bargain.
Steven Jubera, the district attorney in the Mississippi case, told Baptist Press the case was continued until July 30 for a trial and July 19 for a potential plea.
"The reason for the continuance was that it's the first trial setting, the defense counsel had filed motions that had not been heard yet regarding the case, the defense counsel had a conflict, and there has been extensive press coverage," Jubera said of the May 29 proceedings. "For those four reasons, the court deemed it appropriate to continue the case."
According to sources familiar with Nuckolls' speaking schedule, an estimated 100 churches or groups per year were scheduling him to speak.
Among those that have used Nuckolls were LifeWay Christian Resources' student camps, which terminated its relationship with Nuckolls when the charges were revealed last fall.
Nuckolls originally was hired to serve in the role of a camp pastor from 2003-06. In 2007 his role changed to a contract speaker at general assemblies and large gatherings. LifeWay conducts both reference and criminal background checks for those speaking at student camps, an April 4 statement from LifeWay noted.
"Police investigators in Mississippi have reported to LifeWay there was no evidence victims were filmed at any LifeWay events," LifeWay said in its statement. "However, Mark Kimball, assistant chief of police of the Olive Branch, Mississippi, Police Department, has requested those who may be victims to contact him at 662-892-9400."
Last October, Nuckolls was staying in the home of a youth minister for a church in Arkansas where he had been invited to speak. After Nuckolls emerged from the family's bathroom, the youth minister's wife went in and eventually noticed several of his items lying around, including his shaving kit, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram April 2.
The woman saw what appeared to be an oversized pen standing upright inside the shaving kit on the counter, and she continued in the bathroom. Later, when the bathroom was unoccupied, Nuckolls returned to retrieve his belongings, the newspaper said, citing a police report.
Once Nuckolls and the youth minister had left the house, the woman found the pen in Nuckolls' room, took the top off and discovered a flash drive. She plugged it into her computer and saw a video of herself undressing, the Star-Telegram said. She called police, and when Nuckolls returned, he was arrested.
At the time, Nuckolls admitted to videotaping the woman without her consent and also admitted to two other instances of using a hidden camera in Olive Branch, Miss., the police report said. A police chief in Gosnell, Ark., searched Nuckolls' computer and found several more videos dating to 2007.
The prosecutor in Mississippi said the women there were filmed in Nuckolls' home and were his friends or acquaintances.
According to an Internet search, among the places Nuckolls spoke were the Baptist Campus Ministries at the University of Alabama in November 2009, Blue Mountain College in Virginia in August 2011 and churches in several states.
A non-denominational church in Southlake, Texas, where Nuckolls spoke to youth about a half-dozen times in three years, said he passed a required background check there, according to the Star-Telegram.
Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).