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Fame & Mis-Fortune: A Closer Look at James Fortune’s Child Abuse Case + Gospel Singer CANCELS Interview with Yolanda Adams

By Amanda Jackson, EEW News Staff Writer

2012 was shaping up to be an exciting year for successful Stellar Award-winning gospel artist, James Fortune, who is nominated for his very first BET Award this year for Best Gospel Artist. He joins the company of respected veterans Yolanda Adams, Kim Burrell, and Fred Hammond. But the groundbreaking achievement is being overshadowed by more than a decade-old child abuse scandal that has come back to haunt the singer and his wife.

In 2001, something tragic and horrific occurred inside the home of James and Cheryl Fortune that is sending immediate shockwaves throughout the Christian community.  As the details leak out, the story gets more disturbing. The celebrated 33-year-old songwriter of “I Trust You,” a song which spent over 30 weeks atop the Billboard Top Gospel Songs charts, was around 22 at the time an incident with his then 4-year-old stepson, now 15, turned ugly.

After acting out in school, Mr. Fortune was notified by the young boy’s teacher that he had colored on a table. In a punishment not befitting of the crime, official documents say James Fortune whipped the boy naked with a switch, and pushed him into a tub of scalding hot bath water and held him there. This act resulted in severe, irreversible injury, in the form of second and third degree burns over 47% of the boy’s body. The young victim remained in Shriners Burn Hospital in Galveston for 63 days.

Now Roderick Davenport, the teen’s biological father and Cheryl Fortune’s ex-husband, is suing for $5 million dollars to pay for the extensive plastic surgery needed to help correct the boy’s disfigurement. The legal action, Davenport says, is necessary because Fortune was “not agreeing” to pay the money to cover the injury treatment costs.

Many were waiting to hear James Fortune’s side of the story detailing what happened that fateful day during his confirmed interview on The Yolanda Adams Morning Show today. But, at the last minute, Fortune pulled out, saying his legal counsel advised him not to discuss details of the case. 

Fortune, a preacher’s kid, was raised in his father’s church and knew God at an early age. The gifted, musically inclined young man headed up the youth choir at just 13 years old. Then, in 1998, a few years before the abuse incident, Fortune started a community choir known as “Youth for Christ,” and traveled around the Texas area ministering through song. In 2004, James Fortune & FIYA’s debut CD, “You Survived” was released, spawning the hit single of the same name, which went on to become the #2 most played Gospel song in the country for several  consecutive years.

James Fortune says he is “shocked” by the lawsuit over the burns that were so graphic, news station My Fox 26 could not show them to viewers during its live television news broadcast. But the boy’s father says he doesn’t know why Fortune is surprised. “I could not believe that someone would do that to a 4-year-old,” he told Fox.

The child reportedly has memories of the horrifying incident, as well as nightmares with images like skin and blood being in the bathtub water. The victim is said to recall being told to take his clothes off, being whipped naked, as well as his stepfather pushing him in the tub, and not letting him out of the tub.

Davenport told Fox News he was informed by doctors that the boy was likely held in that scalding bathtub of water in order to receive such severe burns, which falls in line with the boy’s grim account.

According to court records and audio from the emergency call, however, Fortune first told the 911 operator that his stepson burned himself in the tub. “Yes, my son just burned himself in the bathtub, messing around in the bath, turned the water on hot, and he burned like his feet and his hands…” Fortune said, while his stepson screamed out in pain the background.

Later, Fortune pled guilty to Felony Injury to a child and was given six years Deferred Adjudication.

Deferred Adjudication s a form of plea deal available in various jurisdictions, where a defendant pleads "guilty" or "No Contest" to criminal charges in exchange for meeting certain requirements laid out by the court within an allotted period of time also ordered by the court. Upon completion of the requirements, which may include probation, treatment, community service, or some form of community supervision, the defendant may avoid a formal conviction on their record or have their case dismissed. In some cases, an order of non-disclosure can be obtained, and sometimes a record can be expunged.  

In a second statement, James Fortune had this to say:

“Several months ago I received a demand for payment form my stepson’s father for and injury to my stepson that occurred in 2001. In the midst of negotiating a settlement regarding that injury, I was served with a lawsuit and now my wife and I are defending ourselves in civil court. At no time in the life was I convicted of felony injury to a child. Following my step-son’s injury, there was a criminal investigation and all matters were resolved.

Since that time, my family and I, including my stepson, have maintained and continuous loving family environment. Although his father has maintained custody, Cheryl and I have enjoyed continuous uninterrupted open visitation with my step-son since 2001.

We are shocked by this lawsuit but understand people are free to use the court system tp pursue matter, whether or not they claims are baseless. We are confident through this believe in our American justice system and know that once all the fact are made transparent justice will prevail in our favor.

This lawsuit is a direct result of our desire to continue the uninterrupted love, commitment, and financial support as well as to protect the ongoing wellbeing while enhancing the current living condition of our son. We have given our stepson his is currently in our car during the summer break continuous support and understand these allegations are a direct result of not only our increased profile and financial viability but an individual desire to exploit such.

We intend to vehemently defend our right to protect our family while maintaining the character integrity and trusted core values the Fortune family has been blessed to exemplify.”

Watch the My Fox 26 report below:


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Reader Comments (21)

I almost don't know what to say. But I don't like this group of people going around blaming the FATHER like he doesn't have a right to demand money for what was done to his child. And I'm still waiting to hear from the mother, Cheryl. I don't understand!!

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShae

I feel like God is doing a serious shakedown with these leaders.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTiona

Why is Cheryl Fortune not speaking out? She is the MOTHER!!!!!

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Everybody wants to talk about "forgive" and "restore"... that's God's job. He already has done that. But now that the public is hearing about it some EXPLAINING needs to happen, not statements about privacy and such.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKiKI

Great report. I still want to hear more from the Fortunes. They don't need to be hiding behind statements. Even with this information my feelings about it have not changed. This is sick and twisted. Did he get help or therapy? Did they go through family counseling? What on earth happened to him that he would do something like that to a child. This is too much, just too disturbing. I feel like something is still missing.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGospel Gal

Oh my God a big knot came up in my throat when i heard that baby screaming in the background. i can't take this. it's too much.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnon


June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBev

First of all, why is the statement so misleading? Why does James Fortune's legal team seem to be trying to cast doubt on what happened? Clearly he's guilty of something. This is not the time to act like you're innocent. It's the time to start talking and telling the truth unlike what you do did on the 911 call. What happened here????????????

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKeisha

Seeing the boy's father really adds more crediblity to the story for me. He does not seem like an unreasonable man, just someone who wants justice. Is that too much to ask? I don't think so.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJocelyn


June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterButterfly Mommy

So basically with deferred adjudication he is not innocent but won't do jail time... interesting. I wonder who makes that determination because this seemed to be a crime worthy of incarceration

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

ok so something went down i think the women was in on it. Perhaps there is info we are not PRIVY too. Either way its either two things FALSE accusations or the TRUTH.

they were probably 'playing' and it went too far. OWE NO MAN anything if you knew that this child had burns that YOU caused WHY have they not been paid for. with that being said, did this accord BEFORE we were in CHURCH according to this we were ALWAYS in Church, so now i DONT UNDERSTAND.

I am not one for jumping to conclusions but viewing EVIDENCE, he or she can say ANYTHING, WHO burned that baby is the QUESTION i have?

but i DO know this GOD will put your stuff OUT there if you are WRONG, so if there was no foul play they have nothing to worry about, but if their WAS and it was repented for, pay the man and do what you are supposed to

Asking for 5 million seems a bit much unless their was REALLY a crime that was it pay back for something not sure but GOD will handle it. I feel like someone needs to REPENT tho-

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterso beautiful

If this was a felony charge why is there a chance in some cases that the charge can be expunged?? Also why would the Mother stay with him if he has hurt her child like that?

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I don't even know why deferred adjudication exists in the system. It seems to let people get off scott free for what happened. This is all very troubling and confusing at best. Still don't know exactly what happened.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMattie

Oh wow... I'm eating a BIG slice of humble pie right now because I was defending him and even chastizing EEW for not having all the facts of the case in order. So it turns out this mess is worse than I thought. I'm surprised he did not serve time for that! At the same time, my heart goes out to the whole family because this is like opening a old wound. This is hard for them- coming out now, when they obviously thought it was water under the bridge. Well, what is said in secret will be shouted on the rooftops. Never think you can get away with anything, especially as a believer.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTammi

There are some disturbing allegation that are about to hit the fan concerning Mr. Fortune....Some are calling for investigation into a gang rape that he was alleged to have been involved in at a church that resuted in the victim being pregnant....And DNA have proven the child was and is his from the attack....If this is true this man need more than our prayer he need help.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

This is all really extra and have you noticed the gospel community has gone silent. Nobody has anything to say about this. They protect their own but this is why mess like this is kept hush-hush. There is no accountability!

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFatima

Hurt, confused, speechless!!!!!

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMattie

as a believer I know that GOD knows and he (James) and Mrs Fortune knows the truth so let the matter play itself out and the truth will come out the meantime pray ...and MOM WHERE YOU? & AND WHERE ARE YOU NOW?

October 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBessie

I want to know where this father was when it happened in the first place and why James Fortune still has all his teeth or is alive for that matter. 5 million dollars would help, but it doesn't begin to satisfy what he did to that boy

November 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterwhyjustwhy

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