Ex-church choir director pleads guilty to raping teen

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 17, 2009 - 3:07 PM

The gospel singer from Plymouth who was a contract music teacher with the Minneapolis schools faces prison time in the rape of a 15-year-old who was in his choir.

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Gregory Beauchamp Washington

A Twin Cities gospel singer and former church choir director who also taught music to Minneapolis schoolchildren has pleaded guilty to raping a Brooklyn Park teenage girl who sang in his choir -- a nearly identical scenario to one for which he was convicted 13 years earlier in St. Paul.

Gregory B. Washington, 33, of Plymouth, pleaded guilty Monday in Hennepin County to two counts of third-degree sexual assault. In negotiations between the defense and prosecution, both sides will recommend to the court that Washington be sentenced to four years and two months in prison and be required to register as a sex offender, said defense attorney Thomas Kelly.

Washington offered no statement to the court when he entered his plea but will have a "more complete opportunity" to speak when he is sentenced Nov. 12, Kelly said.

At the time he was charged in February, he was on probation for another conviction, for which he had been sentenced to 120 days in the workhouse.

Also while on probation, Washington was a contract music teacher in three schools on Minneapolis' North Side. Nobody with the district ran a required criminal check on Washington before he was hired.

Washington owns Miraculous Music, a production and education group that contracted to teach at the Olson Upper Academy campus and Cityview elementary school in September. His Miraculous Music website reports that it is "temporarily suspended."

Olson Principal Karon Cunningham went to the school district's legal department after hearing rumors about Washington's past sexual misconduct in November 2008, and his contract was terminated.

The Brooklyn Park girl was 15 at the time the assaults took place in her home and at Washington's Plymouth home, authorities said. The girl's mother discovered the sexual nature of their relationship after she learned Washington had given the girl a ring and after the mother read explicit text messages the two had exchanged, according to the charges against Washington.

He was convicted in a similar incident in St. Paul in the late 1990s involving another 15-year-old girl. At the time of the St. Paul assault, he was the music director at Zion Baptist Church in north Minneapolis.

When the new charges were filed, Washington was director of Voices of Praise, a Minneapolis gospel group, and choir director at the Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in south Minneapolis. His affiliation with the church ended about the time the charges were filed, Kelly said. The attorney did not know whether he still has a relationship with Voices of Praise.

In February, a county prosecutor called the parallels between the cases "astonishingly similar."

According to Washington's online biography, he started recording with the awarding-winning gospel ensemble Excelsior, and he has shared the stage with Sheena Easton, Roberta Flack and Sounds of Blackness.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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