By SUSANNAH CAHALAN and VERONICA HINKE in Chicago and BRAD HAMILTON in New York --
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's loose cannon of a spiritual adviser, stole the wife of a parishioner - after the man sought Wright's help in saving his troubled marriage, the former husband told friends.
Delmer Reed, 59, confided to pals that he believed the minister moved in on his wife while Wright was counseling the couple at his Chicago church in the early 1980s, The Post has learned.
"That's exactly how he said it," Reed's divorce lawyer, Roosevelt Thomas, told The Post.
"It looks like Delmer might have been right," he said, because after Delmer and Ramah Reed were divorced, she got remarried - to Wright. "Either that or this was the biggest coincidence in the world."
Asked about the relationship between Wright and his ex-wife, Reed told The Post, "Oh, the things I could tell you."
Initially, he didn't believe the rumors.
"People were telling me that my extremely attractive wife was seen with the pastor," Reed said. "But I didn't believe it. I thought, 'So what?' "
Was he wrong in the end?
"Well, yeah," he said.
Asked if Wright broke up his marriage, Reed laughed, then said, "I told my kids I wouldn't say anything to hurt their stepfather, so I'm not saying anything."
But he said he's been hounded by the press and "offered money" to tell his story.
A spokesman for the Wright family flatly denied the allegation yesterday.
"This story has no merit whatsoever and is not based on facts," said George Lofton. "They had problems throughout the course of their turbulent marriage, and the couple never received marriage counseling from Rev. Wright or anyone else."
But Reed, a former investigator for the Illinois secretary of state, told The Post he and his ex-wife went to Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ for counseling when their marriage hit the skids over his demanding work schedule.
"I spoke with [Wright] four times over a few months," Reed said in an interview at his upscale home in Lemont, Ill.
"Her father asked me to go to counseling. We thought we'd be together forever. I decided to try to work this out."
Asked if he's forgiven the pastor, Reed nodded.
"I let it go," he said. "I don't want my kids to hear anything negative about their stepfather."
He added: "I'm not a vindictive person; I'm a forgiving man."
But years ago, Reed did express anger about the situation, said Harold Davis, who said he learned about the matter through mutual friends.
"Jeremiah knew all the weaknesses of the couple, and he started focusing on the wife, her vulnerabilities, and started doing things she wanted Delmer to do - spending time with her, taking her to the movies, that sort of thing," said Davis, who heads the Chicago branch of football great Jim Brown's Amer-I-can youth program.
"Everybody knew Jeremiah took the man's wife," said Davis. "It was common knowledge."
The Reeds, longtime sweethearts who grew up on the same block on Chicago's South Side, have two children, Nikol, 30, and Nathan, 27. The couple got married in 1975 and split in 1982. Their divorce was final in 1983.
Ramah, 59, married Wright, 66, six years after she divorced Reed, although she and the reverend were a couple for years before getting hitched. They remain together and have a daughter, Jamila, 13.
Wright, who divorced his wife, Janet, in 1978, has two adult children from his first marriage.
Reed said his wife served him with divorce papers in 1982 in an arrangement they worked out together. The grounds were "extreme mental cruelty."
"We agreed that she would say anything she wanted to say to get a divorce," Reed said.
"When I saw the words, I thought, 'Was this necessary?' But I decided [to] let her do what she had to do. I was innocent. I was a good boy. It was amicable. We were sitting arm in arm when we signed the divorce papers."
Obama has severed all ties to Wright, but his former adviser continues to be a nightmarish problem for his campaign. The fiery minister, under fire for his racially and politically charged sermons, has toured the country defending his views and claiming Obama has distanced himself for political reasons.
Activist Derrick Mosley, a self-styled minister who has clashed with Wright, said there's an "unwritten rule" that pastors don't counsel married couples separately - as Wright did with Ramah Reed, he said.
In 2003, Mosley said, "I called him on the carpet about the indecorous manner in which he'd obtained his wife."
In response, said Mosley, "he ranted and raved from the pulpit. He got up and announced, 'If Derrick Mosley is in the building, I want you all to arrest him.' "