Cornelius Tilton is the pastor of a New Orleans church and the president of a Louisiana Bible college who is accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old man on a flight from Israel to Newark, New Jersey, prosecutors say.
Tilton, 65, is the pastor at Irish Channel Christian Church and leads the Christian Bible College of Louisiana, according to his Linkedin profile. Tilton is also the former chairman of the New Orleans Ethics Review Board.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey says Tilton was arrested by FBI agents at Newark Liberty International Airport on November 30, 2019, and charged with one count of abusive sexual contact.
“Tilton was sitting in a window seat next to the victim, a 19-year-old male student at a theological seminary who was traveling with a group of students on a religious trip to Israel. Tilton accompanied the group as an unofficial guide and gave speeches,” prosecutors said in a statement. The victim reported the sexual assault to a flight attendant, according to prosecutors. Tilton was arrested when the flight from Tel Aviv landed in Newark.
Here’s what you need to know about Cornelius Tilton:
1. Tilton Is Accused of Touching & Rubbing the Victim & Trying to Put His Hands Down His Pants, Prosecutors Say
According to the statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “During the flight, Tilton allegedly placed his hand on the victim’s bare calf. Tilton continued to touch the victim’s thigh, and eventually began rubbing the victim’s genitals over the victim’s shorts. The victim did not react, or look at Tilton, out of shock and fear.”
Prosecutors added, “Tilton took the victim’s hand and placed it on Tilton’s erect penis, on top of his clothing. The victim got up to go to the bathroom, in hopes of ending the assault. Tilton also went to the bathroom. When the victim and Tilton were back in their seats, Tilton continued to touch the bare skin of the victim’s lower back, underneath the victim’s clothing. Tilton moved his hand around to the front of the victim’s waistline, and attempted to place his hand down the victim’s pants, when the victim blocked Tilton’s hand with his elbow.”
According to prosecutors, “The victim then got up from the seat and informed a flight attendant about the assault.”
The case was investigated by FBI Special Agent Yanelisa Reyes, according to the criminal complaint. The flight was an overnight trip that departed from Tel Aviv, Israel, and was set to arrive in New Jersey early in the morning on November 30, Reyes wrote.
2. He Is Married With 4 Grown Children & 6 Grandchildren & Has Been the Pastor of Irish Channel Christian Fellowship Since 1988
Reverend Cornelius Tilton is a New Orleans native who is married to Carolyn LeBrane Tilton. He has four adult children and six grandchildren, according to Irish Channel Christian Fellowship website.
“Dr. Tilton previously served as associate pastor at the First Holly Grove Baptist Church and the St. John Baptist Church of New Orleans. He came to the church in 1988 initially on an interim basis for 3 months,” the church’s website says.
In August 2019, the church celebrated 31 years at Irish Channel Christian Fellowship with a ceremony titled “God’s Gift to Our Church.”
Tilton became the president of the Christian Bible College of Louisiana in May 1999, according to his Linkedin profile. He wrote on Linkedin his job there involves, “Training Christian men and women for service in local churches and pastors, deacons, youth and christian education workers, as well as individuals looking to improve their knowledge of God’s Word and His will.”
Tilton graduated from Dillard University in 1979 with degrees in business administration and French, according to his Linkedin profile.
3. Tilton Previously Worked at IBM, as a Hospital Administrator & as a Real Estate Broker & Currently Runs a Travel Company, Along With Being Involved in Several New Orleans Charities
Tilton previously worked as an account executive at IBM, as an administrator at Tulane Hospital and as a real estate broker, according to his church’s website. He has also been involved in several New Orleans charities and civic organizations.
“In addition to being former chairman of N. O. Area Habitat for Humanity, the N. O. Mission and Prison Fellowship Ministries, he is a nationally certified in-prison seminar instructor and trainer,” the website says. “Pastor Tilton continues to serve God and community as a missionary to several African and Central American nations, as a member of various boards including as Chair of the New Orleans Ethics Review Board and as General President of Christian Bible College of Louisiana.”
Tilton no longer serves as the chairman of the Ethics Review Board. He was appointed to that position in 2010, according to The Times-Picayune. The newspaper says the board hires and oversees the city of New Orleans’ inspector general and was created in 2006. Tilton began serving on the board in 2006 when it was created.
Tilton also has been a board member and board chairman at the Audobon Charter School and a board of trustees member and president for the Louisiana Baptist Foundation.
In 2008, he started Tilton Travel and Cruises, according to his Linkedin profile. He wrote open that company, “Let us be your personal travel consultant. Individual or group travel. Cruises, Hotels, Rental Cars, Airfare and Vacation packages. We can help you plan your group cruise. You only need 8 cabins to qualify for a group. Call me.”
4. He Was Knighted by the French Government in 2015 for His Work Advancing Education & French Culture
Tilton was knighted by the French government in 2015 for his work advancing education and French culture in 2015, according to The Louisana Weekly. He was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques (Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms).
The newspaper wrote that Tilton, “has dedicated his adult life to education. He has served on the governing board of Audubon Charter School, French and Montessori Education, Inc. for eight years as the board’s Vice Chair and for the last three years as its Chairman. Audubon Charter School, ranked third-best amongst all middle schools in the State of Louisiana, houses a French program accredited from Pre-K through eighth grade by the French Ministry of Education; it is the only public school in Louisiana to bear that distinction. Tilton worked with the school’s administration and the French Consulate to ensure all necessary requirements were met to secure that recognition.”
Tilton has also volunteered in Ghana, Liberia and Haiti and helped create scholarships for students from those counties, according to the newspaper.
“During his own college studies, Tilton spent his junior year abroad studying at the Centre Internationale d’Etudes Francois in Angers and Universite Paul Vallery in Montpelier, France. He has theological education from the Christian Bible College of Louisiana, including a Doctorate of Divinity, conferred in 1999. He is also a graduate of the 25th class of the Bryan Bell Metropolitan Leadership Forum,” the Louisiana Weekly wrote.
Tilton has also received the New Orleans NAACP Education Award, the New Orleans General Hospital Eagle Award for Community Service and other civic awards.
5. Tilton Faces Up to 2 Years in Prison if Convicted
Cornelius Tilton faces up to two years in federal prison if convicted of the charge of abusive sexual contact, along with a possible fine of up to $250,000.
“U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Macurdy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark,” federal prosecutors said in a statement. “The charge and allegations in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
Tilton remained in federal custody pending his first court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark III. It is not clear if Tilton has hired an attorney and he could not be reached for comment by Heavy. Tilton’s church and the Bible college have not commented.
Tilton does not have a prior criminal record beyond traffic offenses.
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