The attorney for a man accused of molesting a toddler at a West Ashley McDonald’s said Friday that he thinks the allegation is financially motivated because of money his client received from a traffic crash a decade ago.
Jamar William McGriff, 30, of Whitehaven Drive in North Charleston, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
The incident was said to have occurred after a church outing Nov. 9 as McGriff accompanied the 3-year-old girl, her mother and a mutual adult friend to the restaurant at 1201 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. Family members informed the Charleston Police Department five days later.
The girl told therapists during a forensic interview that McGriff had kissed her lips, touched her buttocks and fondled her genitals while they were on the indoor playground, according to an arrest affidavit.
McGriff’s attorney, Mark Mason of Mount Pleasant, questioned why other adults hadn’t noticed the alleged act.
He said his client suffered a serious brain injury and was in a coma after he was hit by a car in 2002. As a result, McGriff received a significant financial settlement and is not capable of such a crime, the attorney said.
Mason said he represented McGriff during his civil litigation, which was decided by the state Supreme Court.
“There is no physical or other evidence that the alleged act occurred,” said Mason, who said detectives found no surveillance footage of the alleged incident.
The child’s mother said in an interview that she has known McGriff for nearly 10 years because they belonged to the same church, Faith in Action Christian Fellowship on Gordon Street in North Charleston.
She said her daughter has struggled to sleep and that the girl’s toilet-training routine has been disrupted. She denied Mason’s contention that she is seeking a financial windfall.
The girl was with her family during a bond hearing Thursday in which she saw McGriff on a television.
“She still talks about it,” the mother said. “This isn’t something that’s going away overnight.”
McGriff and the driver of a church van gave the mother and her daughter a ride home after they attended a speaking event for their pastor that night. They decided to stop at the restaurant after 9 p.m.
Mason said the driver and the girl’s mother ordered food as McGriff and the toddler went to the play area. The group dined on cheeseburgers and a chicken salad and left without any commotion, the attorney said.
The woman said that her daughter told her at the restaurant that McGriff had kissed her; the full story did not come out until later.
She said she had trusted McGriff, who plays drums in the church choir.
He has a felony conviction for threatening the use of an explosive device in 1999, according to the State Law Enforcement Division. He was arrested on a charge of criminal domestic violence in 2008.
A MySpace page refers to McGriff as “purpose-driven” and “Apostle Jamar.” He professes to like the TV shows “Charmed” and “Touched by an Angel.”
The child’s relatives said the allegation garnered mixed reactions among churchgoers. The mother recently parted ways with the congregation.
A church that once occupied the same building, Full Word Ministries, had been embroiled in a sex scandal. Former pastor Tyrone Moore was sentenced in 2009 to 30 years in prison for molesting eight young males. The church later was sued by people who said leaders knew of the abuse and did nothing.
The pastor of McGriff’s church moved his ministry to the Gordon Street building in late 2010. Since then the church has fought the same stigma that had dogged the building’s previous occupants.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.