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smac97

Church Loses "Emotional Distress Case"

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This just in:

The Mormon church and one of its former officers in King County have been slapped with a $4.2 million verdict for negligence and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on two sisters in a case of child sex abuse.

On Friday, a jury found that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had done nothing to prevent Peter Taylor, a lay officer in the Federal Way stake (a geographic unit of the church), from sexually molesting his stepdaughter despite knowing about the abuse. The girl's younger sister also was a victim, the jury found.

During the trial, police testified that the church had thwarted their attempts to investigate the charges by shielding clergy and maintaining that any information they might have was secret under a priest-penitent privilege.

"No jury likes people that use religion to cover up for the fact that they were protecting child molesters," said Tim Kosnoff, the plaintiffs' lawyer. "It was clear they wanted to send a message to the Mormon church with this verdict."

Seattle attorney Tom Fry, who represented the church, said he was "shocked and surprised" by the ruling.

"I think the jury got it dead wrong," he said, noting that the court had found that Taylor had not been acting as an officer of the church when he molested his stepdaughters.

"The church abhors any type of child abuse," Fry said.

...

Church officials have not yet decided whether to appeal.

More details here:

A Washington state jury has ordered The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to pay at least $2.5 million to two sisters who alleged their bishop failed to protect them from a stepfather who sexually abused them for years.

The church also is on the hook for an additional $1.7 million unless its attorneys can convince a judge that it shouldn't have to pay for damages related to Peter Taylor, who served just over four years in prison for the crimes.

Seattle attorney Timothy Kosnoff, known for filing similar lawsuits in other states, called the ruling a win for victims often abandoned by church leaders who try to keep sexual abuse under wraps by not reporting it to police.

His client, Jessica Cavalieri, 24, said she hopes the verdict is a wake-up call for the church and a "sign to other victims that they too can have their voices heard."

Church attorney Von Keetch, however, called Friday's verdict "a miscarriage of justice," and said he will encourage church leaders to appeal.

Jurors, he said, were more interested in sending a message than considering the evidence.

...

In the lawsuit, Jessica says Taylor began sexually abusing her back in 1988 - a horror that would continue for a decade. When she mustered the courage to tell a friend in junior high, the friend told the ward's then-bishop, Bruce Hatch.

Hatch invited Jessica and her mother to speak with him, Kosnoff said, telling her mother the meeting was about tension between daughter and stepfather. When Jessica went in alone first, Kosnoff said, Hatch told her to be glad she had not told civil authorities, who would try to destroy her family.

Hatch then spoke with her parents, but never mentioned the abuse, Kosnoff said. Believing her mother had been told, Jessica felt abandoned, she said.

Taylor soon focused his attentions on Ashley, Jessica's younger sister.

When Jessica confided in a friend about the abuse in an e-mail years later, the friend sent the e-mail to her own parents, who then alerted the current bishop of the ward, Stan Wade.

Wade called the family in for an interview, and Taylor confessed to the abuse, Kosnoff said. Jessica's mother was then told by the stake president that civil authorities would be alerted, he said.

When Ashley later told their mother Taylor had abused her, the mother called authorities to report a second case. She then realized church leaders had never reported the abuse of Jessica, Kosnoff said.

The lawsuit alleged an LDS social services therapist who discussed the abuse with Jessica also did not report the allegations to police.

Wade and the stake president later refused to cooperate with police investigating the case, Kosnoff said.

Washington laws don't make clergy mandatory reporters of suspected child sexual abuse. But Kosnoff successfully argued in court that Hatch was acting as a social services counselor when Jessica came to him for help.

The judge on the case allowed that question to go to jurors.

Making clergy subject to the law, said Keetch, is a stretch. Social service  counselors are defined as professionals who encourage the welfare of children or provide services to families.

The church also disputes Kosnoff's version of events. Keetch said Hatch maintained on the witness stand he never had any confirmation that abuse was occurring.

Keetch also points to testimony from several of Jessica's friends.

One in particular, they said, testified that Jessica had told her she lied to Hatch, denying the abuse when confronted.

The church also points to Jessica's own e-mail, in which she writes: "When my mom found out I had been abused, do you know what she said, 'Jessica, you can't tell anyone. You know how embarrassed Grandma and Grandpa would be. If you want we could go down and file a police report, but then everyone's life would be ruined.' So I never did anything."

Said Keetch, "Our position was Bishop Hatch did not know."

The church notes several efforts it has taken in recent years to ensure it follows state reporting laws for child sexual abuse.

Chief among them: a toll-free number for its lay clergy to call for information on how to handle allegations of abuse.

Keetch calls any allegation that it is a haven for abusers "ridiculous."

I recall reading some posts by Tim Kosnoff on the RfM board a few years back. He was suing the LDS Church in Oregon. Here's the text of some of the RfM messages on that:

Abuse Victims File Suit Against LDS

Date:  Jan 09 20:25

Author: Tim Kosnoff

Mail Address: [email protected]

We filed suit a couple of hours ago in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Portland, OR on behalf of twelve men who were sexually abused by Frank Curtis, the same High Priest and Primary Teacher who abused Jeremiah Scott. The allegations against the Mormon Church are similar to those made in Scott regarding the Church's longstanding knowledge and concealment of the child sexual abuse.

We expect there will be news coverage in the Utah press and elsewhere tomorrow. Feel free to call me tomorrow at 425-637-3070 or email me anytime if you have any questions. 

________

Subject:  I hope you take that scumsucking trash to the cleaners

Date:  Jan 10 08:21

Author: Bob

Mail Address: 

I hope you lower the boom on those bastards. It couldn't happen to a more deserving group of people. You realize that the Mormon PR machine is a well-greased association of professional liars with alot of money. Mormons are seasoned Pros at lying and twisting the truth(over 170 years of experience), so you have your hands full. Good luck!

This lawsuit later settled:

The Mormon Church covered up its knowledge of a High Priest's sexual molestation of young boys for more than a decade according to a Portland, Oregon lawsuit that the church paid $3,000,000.00 to settle.  The charges were brought by one of the priest's victims, Jeremiah Scott.

Today, Scott's mother made a statement describing the Mormon Church as a, "sanctuary for pedophiles.  The church is so concerned about its public image," Sandra Scott charged, "that it hide the truth from me that it had recycled a known pedophile into a position of authority in the church where he had unlimited access to young children."  Scott's legal team hailed the settlement as, "the first big step for one victim in the long struggle to expose the Mormon Church's epidemic pattern of providing a safe and secret haven for child molesters."

...

In a statement attacking the pretrial rulings of Multnomah County Circuit Judge Ellen Rosenblum, the church stated that it paid Scott $3,000,000.00 only because it would have cost "significantly more in legal fees and other costs" to continue with the litigation.  "Nothing could be further from the truth," responded one of Scott's attorneys, Timothy Kosnoff of Bellevue, Washington. "The Mormon Church settled this case because they knew any jury would be outraged by the proof that the church had known for years that Franklin Curtis was a serial pedophile.  The church not only venerated Curtis as a High Priest, but it made him a scout leader and Sunday School teacher -- and then hid the fact that he was a molester from the whole congregation."

And then there's this lawsuit, again involving Mr. Kosnoff:

A Kent man who says he was the victim of sexual abuse more than 20 years ago has filed a lawsuit against the Mormon church, alleging that church officials shielded the abuser for more than a decade, effectively allowing him to molest at least five other local children.

Ken Fleming, 42, said he brought the case against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because he wanted to hold officials accountable for turning a blind eye as family after family reported that Jack Loholt, the leader of a church-sponsored Boy Scout troop, had molested their children.

...

Tim Kosnoff, the attorney representing Fleming, said this wide-cast net allows more potential child abusers to gain the authority and respect accorded to clerics. The attorney, who has brought numerous sexual abuse cases against the Catholic Church, is involved with at least seven involving Mormons here and in Utah. Washington state has the fourth-highest Mormon population in the country.

"It's more or less the same thing you see in the Catholic Church," Kosnoff said.

"Except that I think it's much worse because there's a far greater number and all of these men are held out as clergylike, worthy of the highest respect and trust, with an imprimatur of moral worthiness."

Mr. Kosnoff is "'looking at' other cases and expect more lawsuits in the future." He even set up a website, http://www.stopmormonsexualabuse.com/ , which is no longer online, but which, according to this website, included the following:

Click on www.stopmormonsexualabuse.com and you will immediately find yourself being addressed by lawyers who are already making the assumption that you are a victim of sexual abuse:
You Are Not Alone.

For years the Mormon Church has been a safe haven for child molesters. It is time for the Mormon Church to take responsibility for the injuries to scores of children that it

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Those are some pretty big settlements and verdicts. Does anyone know whether the Church pays these from tithing funds or some other pot of money?

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Lawyers are sowing the seeds of mankind's destruction. I wonder if these guys are members of the ACLU? Lawsuites like this are just part of the ever growing business of bilking any group that has a few bucks in their coffers. I'm going to speculate and say, if this becomes a nation wide trend, I think many people will be more and more hesitant to take callings involving youth. Who the heck wants the risk of being accused of something like that? You know how this will go; if one person in the church happens to turn out to be a bonified molester, then ALL mormons MUST be molesters.... same attitude that developed about the RCC clergy.

Edit: I'm picturing leagues of hungry, unscrupulous lawyers drudging up any and all who have a beef with the church in cities all across the country. The sad part is that while any legitimate victims are seeking compensation, and rightfully so, they will be lumped in and confused with the hordes of sharks who now smell blood in the water.

LAWYERS OF THE WORLD IGNITE!

Okay, okay we'll make an acception for smac.....

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Didn't you *know* we were a haven for child molestors? :P

Certainly there must be some that goes on, but in this case it sounds like the jury wasn't entirely fair. The Bishop had conflicting reports.

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There may be some monsters in the church. This would be upsetting but not surprising. What I don't like is the insinuation of some form of conspiracy/cover up within the higher ranks of the church which I don't believe in the least. It is hard for us to expect common men, who are volunteering there personal to fulfill a calling to always be smart enough to handle issues as heavy as sexual abuse. Society is always trying to send a message in the form of millions of dollars, they also love to make an enemy of powerful institutions.

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Well, we of ISKCON (International Society for Krsna Consciousness) have certainly learned our own lessons about placing individuals (without proper background screening) in supervisory capacities over youth, and iit should get a message across to all religious groups: Kids DO grow up, and they TELL.

ys,

BMD.

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But BMD, the guy doing the abusing wasn't in any supervisory capacity over youth. He was abusing his own daughters at home. The problem came with the conflicting stories told to the Bishop, who did not think that the abuse had been fimrly established, so he did not contact authorities.

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But BMD, the guy doing the abusing wasn't in any supervisory capacity over youth. He was abusing his own daughters at home. The problem came with the conflicting stories told to the Bishop, who did not think that the abuse had been fimrly established, so he did not contact authorities.

The father, as Priesthood leader in the home, certainly DOES have a "supervisory capacity over youth", not only as their biological source, but in the eyes of the Church.

ys,

BMD.

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Sure, but the difference is that the Church did not call him as a Father, did not grant him authority as a Father, and he wasn't acting in official Church capacity when he was comitting this abuse. There's quite a difference, that I see, vis-a-vis the culpability of the Church between a (nominally) LDS father comitting abuse on his children in his home and a Church leader abusing the children of others on a scout campout or something.

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The father, as Priesthood leader in the home, certainly DOES have a "supervisory capacity over youth", not only as their biological source, but in the eyes of the Church.

I think it is the other way around. The father has control over the church.

What surprises me is that there is no law mandating church leaders to report. Still, if there is not...this case should have had no merit on that alone.

This idea that any church has to be sent a message is absurd. They have all gotten several at this point. :P

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I think it's sad that, whoever was "at fault", the girls got attacked in the first place.

If the money helps them find some peace and move on, as well as overcome any ill feelings they may have towards the Church and the Bishop, I don't have a huge problem with it.

If it were Christ's money, I couldn't imagine a better place for it than with victims of child abuse. If it is the Corporation of the First Presidency's money, than it would be better used to grow the assets of the corporation, and is being wasted as the result of an overly litigious society and an ignorant jury.

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The Church recognized his calling (from God) to be a father, and in performing official capacities pertaining thereto, necessarily placed him in such proximity to his victim to enable him to perform his nefarious criminal acts, report of which to the Bishop (acting as an agent for the Church) was not immediately relayed to the appropriate civil authorities, as the D&C stipulates it must.

Perhaps in addition to counseling fathers as to what constitutes appropriate behavior with their children, the Church should pay more attention to training her Bishops not to fall back on "seat-of-the-pants inspiration" in the performance of their own responsibilities.

ys,

BMD.

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The Church...  necessarily placed him in such proximity to his victim to enable him to perform his nefarious criminal acts
:P ... <_<

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The victim in this case is in a far worse situation now than she was. When you get revenge, you don't "feel better." You feel worse because you are disobeying God. Vengeance is the Lord's.

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The victim in this case is in a far worse situation now than she was. When you get revenge, you don't "feel better." You feel worse because you are disobeying God. Vengeance is the Lord's.

And what would your advice have been to this victim? In your opinion, what should she have done, nothing?

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Lawsuites like this are just part of the ever growing business of bilking any group that has a few bucks in their coffers

Outragous comment!! If there is child abuse it is NOT the Lawyers fault and I thank God that we HAVE Lawyers to expose and jail these Wolves in Sheeps clothing.

If money is the only way to get the attention of the church..then so be it.

I pay my tithe and shrek at how my hard earned money is going for this..but if it can help a child ..then so be it..

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She should have channelled her anger against the source of her distress. The abuser. Or her mother who told her not to tell anyone. But of course, they didn't have any money.

But the only healing she will ever get is through forgiveness. We cannot heal as long as we do not forgive those who hurt us. And you cannot forgive when extracting vengeance. Every dollar she spends of that settlement will drive her further away from a healthy state.

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The victim in this case is in a far worse situation now than she was.  When you get revenge, you don't "feel better."  You feel worse because you are disobeying God.  Vengeance is the Lord's.

And what would your advice have been to this victim? In your opinion, what should she have done, nothing?

My question too, charity. What constitutes the girl's "disobedience to the Lord" here-

1. Telling?

2. Seeking remunerative compensation?(that may never restore those feelings of purity and innocence that every kid should be allowed to grow up with?)

Is she now "worse off"?

ys,

BMD.

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This:

The Church recognized his calling (from God) to be a father, and in performing official capacities pertaining thereto, necessarily placed him in such proximity to his victim to enable him to perform his nefarious criminal acts, report of which to the Bishop (acting as an agent for the Church) was not immediately relayed to the appropriate civil authorities, as the D&C stipulates it must.

is nonsense. The Church is not "placing" any parent anywhere, and any parent who is abusing his children is doing so against the multifarious and constant counsel of the Church to fathers. The father is not the agent of the Church, and any imputation of liability for intentional, criminal acts of members to the Church is a travesty, overturning centuries of legal precedent. But of course that matters not at all to "outcome oriented" persons who care not a lick for due process.

Perhaps in addition to counseling fathers as to what constitutes appropriate behavior with their children, the Church should pay more attention to training her Bishops not to fall back on "seat-of-the-pants inspiration" in the performance of their own responsibilities.

This is a mean-spirited and unwarranted slam. Knock it off. You have no idea what you're talking about and are parroting RfM bigotry when you say this.

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This:
The Church recognized his calling (from God) to be a father, and in performing official capacities pertaining thereto, necessarily placed him in such proximity to his victim to enable him to perform his nefarious criminal acts, report of which to the Bishop (acting as an agent for the Church) was not immediately relayed to the appropriate civil authorities, as the D&C stipulates it must.

is nonsense. The Church is not "placing" any parent anywhere, and any parent who is abusing his children is doing so against the multifarious and constant counsel of the Church to fathers. The father is not the agent of the Church, and any imputation of liability for intentional, criminal acts of members to the Church is a travesty, overturning centuries of legal precedent. But of course that matters not at all to "outcome oriented" persons who care not a lick for due process.

Perhaps in addition to counseling fathers as to what constitutes appropriate behavior with their children, the Church should pay more attention to training her Bishops not to fall back on "seat-of-the-pants inspiration" in the performance of their own responsibilities.

This is a mean-spirited and unwarranted slam. Knock it off. You have no idea what you're talking about and are parroting RfM bigotry when you say this.

You know, because of posts like this, I may never tell another Aggie joke much less use the phrase "The L_ _ _'_ U_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _". In short, I agree compelely.

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It's an interesting and extremely sad case to say the least. The really sad thing is that if this happened today the chances of it turning out this way would be siginficantly lower. Since approximately 1994, the Church has instituted policies that make it much clearer to Bishops and Stake Presidents what their duties are in these situations.

Furthermore, many states (Utah included) have amended their laws to clarify the penitent/clergy privilege (when it exists, when it doesn't). For example, as I understand the Utah law, if the Bishops receives the information from any source beside the abuser, he is required to report. (Thus, if the victim says it happened, he must report). However, if it comes from the abuser himself, the Bishop is not required to report. However, many bishops have now taken to urging abusers who confess to turn themselves into to civil authorities and face the music as a part of their repentance process -- a move with which I heartily agree in most cases. But even if the abuser confesses, it's my understanding that the Church requires the Bishop to take prophylactic measures regarding the victims such as arranging for children to be removed from the home and kept safe, etc.

Its actually a fine line to walk because, as a religious organization dedicated to repentance and forgiveness you don't want the threat of legal action to derail the desire of a penitent abuser to confess and get help. By the same token, his eternal soul must be weighed against the immediate temporal safety and welfare of his victims. In most cases, I think it should favor the victim and his/her safety and the abusers spiritual issues should take a backseat to any such concerns.

However, from a legal standpoint I think USU78 is dead on. This is a travesty in that the man was not acting as a church officer when this abuse happened. This represents a jury that felt bad for the victim and decide that "somebody" had to pay. At law, that's usually the folks w/ the deepest pockets.

I suspect an appeal is forthcoming.

C.I.

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Since approximately 1994, the Church has instituted policies that make it much clearer to Bishops and Stake Presidents what their duties are in these situations.

I wonder what events inspired these changes. Revelation or litigation? The Lord certainly does work in mysterious ways.

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CI:

Here Any actions a Bishop could take to remove the children would have to be on the permission of at least one of the parents. Bishops have no legal authority to do it. Here it could be considered kidnapping.

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Expecting that the bishop take immediate steps to remove the offending priesthood leader from the home is not "nonsense", USU78. His non-removal is tantamount to placement.

Neither is the suggestion that LDS bishops receive explicit, non-intuition based instructions for dealing with this ever-increasingly common situation "bigotry", as you suggest. Your suggestion that i "knock it off", however, could be interpreted thusly.

ys,

BMD.

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