TYLER, Texas — The trial or Rev. Jerome Milton, a longtime pastor in Tyler accused of stealing more than $30,000 from an elderly couple, has been set for August.
Milton, who was arrested last October, is charged with property theft between $30,000 and $150,000 (against an elderly individual).
During a hearing on Friday, 114th District Court Judge Austin Reeve Jackson set Aug. 15 as the trial date and also asked if Milton had a retained a lawyer yet.
Milton said he has not yet hired an attorney but he does intend to do so. In addition to the trial setting, Jackson also set a hearing for May 20 to see if Milton has obtained a lawyer.
According to the arrest affidavit, Milton, who serves as the reverend at Open Door Bible Church in Tyler, unlawfully took money from congregation members, Wayford and Marilyn Brown, using multiple check withdrawals and ATM transactions while he serving as their power of attorney and finances.
The document states Milton used the funds he took for car payments and hotel rooms.
In an exclusive interview with CBS19 ahead of Friday's hearing, Milton said he didn't do anything illegal as he had legal power of attorney and was taking care of the Browns.
“I'm always being called a thief, always taking the money. I took care of Mr. and Mrs. Brown. It’s not something I asked for, not something I sought. They brought an attorney in to give me durable power of attorney,” Milton said. “I was in charge of all of their medical care, I was in charge of all of their finances and I paid bills.”
Ms. Brown has Alzheimer’s and she needs care around the clock, while her husband, who has since passed away, was completely bedridden due to an injury, according to their son Darryl Brown.
The Browns’ son said Milton left just 28 cents in his parents’ bank accounts. He has since taken guardianship over his parents, which supersedes power of attorney.
“It took me months with my own money to fix these bank accounts,” Darryl Brown said. “He stayed in hotels. We had this guy doing a number on them because they really truly believed he was a man of God. But no man of God would ever do that to anybody. Nobody.”
The Tyler police investigation began when Darryl Brown heard two church members say Milton was misusing his parents’ bank cards and getting them to sign blank checks.
According to the arrest affidavit, multiple checks were written to Milton using the Browns’ account with memos like “bills;” “church tithe;” “church donation;” or “pastor aide.” As the check writing to Milton continued, several checks ultimately deemed the couple’s accounts as having insufficient funds.
A joint account, which had both Milton and the Browns’ names on it, was used for payment toward Milton’s 2011 Chevrolet Suburban. In one instance, Milton used the man’s debit card to make a car payment at a tire shop for his vehicle, the affidavit stated.
In the affidavit regarding Rev. Milton's arrest, police said his son, Jerome Anthony Milton, was seen making ATM withdrawals from the elderly man’s bank account. The younger Milton was indicted in March on a credit or debit card abuse against the elderly charge.