by Kevin Allman
On the afternoon of Feb. 25, a mother unloading her children from a car to take them to a nearby playground alerted authorities to a man in a Ford Windstar van parked near the playground. The man, she told sheriffs' deputies, was masturbating. Storms told officers on the scene he wasn't masturbating, but instead attempting to urinate in a bottle in the van. This afternoon, he admitted concocting that story — "I was ashamed" — but did not admit to masturbating. "I'm confessing to having my hand in my pants," Storms said. "That's all I'm going to say," adding the truth "will come out in court."
Speaking in the parking lot of a motel on the I-10 Service Road in Metairie, where he had been staying since his arrest, Storms struggled for composure, at times breaking down in tears as he described the effect his arrest had on his wife and four children, the youngest of whom are nine and six years old. "I'll have to tell them, 'Daddy has a problem,'" he said, weeping.
Storms wanted to clear the record on one issue in particular: that he was parked in the vicinity of the Lafreniere playspot to watch children. "I am not a pedophile," he said. "I am not a child molester." Despite the arrest report in Jefferson Parish in which he seemed to implicate himself for public masturbation, Storms said he wasn't clear as to the nature of the charges to which he admitted ("It's contradictory to what happened"), and said the conduct of the JPSO was like a "stab in the back," calling the sheriffs' interview procedures "coercive and insulting."
"It's not true I confessed," Storms said. "I'm losing faith in law enforcement."
Storms, who is no longer affiliated with any church, says he runs a lawn care business out of his van and had stopped at Lafreniere Park to eat lunch — though he said he had been looking at online pornography immediately before going to the park: "I have a problem with pornography. Pornography is destructive."
Asked if the pornographic material was heterosexual, homosexual or child-centered, he said, "Heterosexual." Asked if he would characterize his behavior as a manifestation of sex addiction, he said, "I'm familiar with sex addiction, being a pastor ... I'll just say: Do I have a problem? Yes." Despite that problem, he said, this arrest was the first of its kind.
"I have deeply hurt my family," Storms said, weeping, "and I pray they can find it within their hearts to forgive me."
In 2003 and 2004, Storms led high-profile protests against the annual Southern Decadence festival in the French Quarter (sometimes referred to as the "gay Mardi Gras"), in which he condemned homosexuals, confronted revelers with bullhorns and signs, and vowed to drive the largely gay Labor Day weekend event from New Orleans. This week, however, he characterized those protests as "hateful." asked for the forgiveness of those he had hurt with his anti-gay rhetoric. "I was very proudful, arrogant," Storms said. "I have been vicious at times in my condemnation of others." Would he return to Southern Decadence to denounce the crowds? "No, no," he said.
Storms concluded with another apology before being joined by a man dressed in black, whom he refused to identify other than to say "I've got pastors working with me now."
The two men left the parking lot together silently.