Jump to content

Mormon church sued over not reporting father's abuse


JAHS

Recommended Posts

Lawsuit: LDS Church officials, teacher knew of abuse but kept silent

A lawsuit filed Monday charges that two Mormon bishops and a teacher failed to report a Bisbee father's repeated sexual and physical abuse of three of his children, despite a state law that makes reporting such offenses mandatory.

It argues that the "clergy-penitent privilege" in the law, which keeps confessions confidential, does not apply to such cases. The teacher, a former border-patrol agent as well as the children's Sunday school teacher, had a clear duty under the law in both of her roles to report the abuses to police, the suit alleges.

"Each of the Defendants had personal observations of the abuse, and also knew of the abuse outside of any confidential communication," the complaint, filed in Cochise County Superior Court, alleges. The father's abusive practices were discussed by church officials in routine meetings, and led to his excommunication in 2015 after church officials learned of his abuse of his daughter, then age 5.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of three of the six children of Paul and Leizza Adams, details Paul Adams' repeated sexual abuse of his daughters over a seven-year period, including the rape of his infant daughter. Paul Adams was indicted on 11 counts of child sexual abuse in 2017 and was awaiting trial when he hanged himself in his prison cell later that year.

The children have since been adopted by various families and have different last names than their parents.

The suit names the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as well as the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church.

In a statement Monday, an attorney for the church, Bill Maledon, wrote:

"This tragic abuse was perpetrated by the young victims’ own father who died of suicide in jail while awaiting trial. As clergy, the bishop was required by Arizona law to maintain the confidentiality of the father’s limited confession. Notwithstanding, the bishop took the few details he had and made efforts to protect the children, primarily through the mother. The bishop urged the family to report the abuse or give him consent to do so, but they refused. The bishop also convened a church disciplinary council and condemned the limited conduct he knew of in the strongest terms by excommunicating Mr. Adams from the Church in 2013. It was not until law enforcement made an arrest of the father that the bishop learned of the scope and magnitude of the abuse that far exceeded anything he had heard or suspected. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its clergy worked to handle this matter appropriately consistent with Arizona law. It has also tried to assist the victims and remains willing to commit significant resources to aid and assist these children. The Church has no tolerance for abuse of any kind. Our hearts ache for all survivors of abuse and go out to the victims in this case. The Church will continue to offer assistance to these young victims, but the Church will also vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit."

The suit seeks findings of negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress against the defendants. It also seeks a finding of medical malpractice against Herrod, given his role as the family's physician. The filing asks the court for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The case revolves around Paul Adams' abuse of his children and the people who knew of the abuse and did little to stop it.

When Paul Adams sought counseling for his pornography addiction from his Mormon bishop, Herrod at first brought in Paul Adams' wife, hoping her knowledge of the sexual and physical abuse would put an end to it. 

That didn't work, according to the lawsuit. Herrod then asked church leadership for permission to report the abuse, but was instead directed to the church's helpline.

He was advised to continue counseling and was told he did not need to report the abuse due to the "clergy-penitent privilege" in the law.

Herrod's successor, Mauzy, also called the helpline about Paul Adams and received the same advice.  Helpline calls regarding sexual abuse are referred to the Salt Lake City law firm of Kirton McConkie.

"In other words, the Church implements the Helpline not for the protection and spiritual counseling of sexual abuse victims, as professed in Church doctrine and literature, but for Kirton McConkie attorneys to snuff out complaints and protect the Church from potentially costly lawsuits," the lawsuit states.

Without a report to police or child-welfare authorities, the abuse remains hidden. According to the lawsuit, this case came to light after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security followed up on a tip from Interpol about pornographic videos on the internet that were linked to Paul Adams. 

An investigation into Leizza Adams' actions by federal officials uncovered that the clergymen knew of the abuse but were counseled to not report it. The Cochise County Attorney's Office confirmed in the spring that there is a criminal investigation into the matter by an "outside agency" but has provided no update on the probe.

Warr knew of problems in the Adams household through her role as a visiting teacher, as well as through her friendship with Leizza Adams.

"Despite the overwhelming evidence of Paul’s abusive and psychotic behavior toward his children and wife, Warr failed to report Paul’s abuse of Plaintiffs to any government authorities on the instructions of Church leadership," the claim alleges.

Attorneys representing the children acknowledge the clergy privilege, but argue the bishops and Warr knew of the abuse outside of any confessional-type setting. For example, Paul Adams' excommunication was directly related to his abusive behaviors.

Besides, attorney Lynne Cadigan said, state law does not bar anyone from reporting child abuse. It's church policy to not report, she said, a policy designed to protect the church from costly and damaging litigation. "It's not against the law, it's against church policy," she said.

John Manly, another attorney for the children, said the case reminds him of the Catholic Church in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"It's like the Mafia hiring a pastor and using the pastor to hide their crimes," he said.

“What they’re really doing is hiding serial criminal conduct under the guise of religion.” 

Beyond the repeated sexual abuse of his two daughters, Paul Adams also sexually abused his son, the lawsuit states. He beat him, forced him to watch pornography and witness the abuse of his sisters. This resulted in night terrors and hygiene issues while he was in foster care. 

The daughters, the lawsuit claims, have permanent emotional and physical damage from the years of molestation.

Because their father posted pornographic images of them on the dark web, the girls' adoptive parents have been notified by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force that they risk being stalked. Authorities have warned them to stay away from social media for fear that they will be identified and further traumatized.

_______________

It should have been reported by others outside the clergy privilege. I'm sure however it's a hard thing for a Bishop and the family to do, when he and the wife so desperately want to give him a chance to repent. Is it a baseless lawsuit as the church attorney claimed?

Edited by JAHS
Link to comment

This has been discussed before. I went and read all the court documents available at the time, but can’t remember what I concluded besides the dad was a twisted sob and the mom had major problems as well.  Iirc they ended up separating all the kids to different families due to triggering off of each other and the mother is forbidden contact while they are minors. 
 

iirc the border patrol agent was the wife’s minister and primary teacher to most or all of the kids over time.  She worked with the dad and believed he was dangerous.  The guy made threats against his bosses and they still hired him back iirc after suspending him. 
 

 She went out of her way to try and help the family, even offering to stand guard while the mom packed in case the dad came home and then to take her out to her parents. The mom always denied there was any abuse or to her, so if the friend reported it would have been based on suspicions, not personal observation of abuse or being confessed to. 
 

Will find the threads.

https://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/72152-high-councilman-arrested-for-filming-a-woman-getting-undressed/?do=findComment&comment=1209946304

https://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/72539-proposed-bill-in-utah-to-eliminate-priestpenitent-privelege-re-child-abuse/?do=findComment&comment=1209954822

Think this is the main thread about it:

https://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/72834-what-a-nightmare/

My summary of my readings and remaining questions:

https://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/72834-what-a-nightmare/?do=findComment&comment=1209969568

and

https://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/72834-what-a-nightmare/?do=findComment&comment=1209969573

 

Edited by Calm
Link to comment
16 minutes ago, Calm said:

This has been discussed before.

Yeah, they didn't put a date on the article so I didn't know if the article itself was new or not.  It's all been going on for a few years. Thanks for the links.

Link to comment
18 minutes ago, JAHS said:

Yeah, they didn't put a date on the article so I didn't know if the article itself was new or not.  It's all been going on for a few years. Thanks for the links.

I believe it is a newer article as I don’t remember reading it, but no new info. If so, what is reported is the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ interpretations of one agent’s report of one interview he had with each former bishop as well as interpretations of the border patrol visiting teacher...which is contrary to what her testimony was (as far as the level of evidence she saw as the kids always wore long sleeves and never talked about their dad and the mom didn’t tell her about the abuse until after the dad was arrested). 
 

I am guessing the bp agent was reluctant to report because she didn’t know if there was actual evidence of physical abuse and given the mom continually denied it to her, verbal abuse could only be proven if the kids spoke up...and they were silent in her experience. With her belief in the dad’s likeliness to become violent, if she reported it but nothing was done, she probably was fearful the dad would take out the mom at least and possibly the entire family (he was not the devoted type).  If this is the case, I don’t fault her for not saying anything herself, but continually prodding the mother to act and bring there to help her, including armed support. 
 

The first bishop who was apparently confessed to and possibly multiple times...him I have questions about why he didn’t report it if mandated. 
 

The second called the hotline, but it doesn’t sound like he had first hand knowledge.  I would have to know what he was told by the first bishop*** before putting him in the same category. 

****Iirc the man was rather quickly excommunicated, but he had other behaviours (adultery) so it may not have been made known to the council that he had confessed to child abuse.

Edited by Calm
Link to comment
On 11/30/2020 at 9:36 PM, JAHS said:

Yeah, they didn't put a date on the article so I didn't know if the article itself was new or not.  It's all been going on for a few years. Thanks for the links.

This is fairly new. https://kvoa.com/news/2020/11/30/news-4-tucson-investigators-bisbee-church-at-center-of-sexual-abuse-claim/?fbclid=IwAR3GyC_gkhHoSIMuCu-CVJ_qO4_D5HW6khM1Gh7PpAV30Enwfw_osZA0y6k

Think of the pain that could have stopped, if Kirton and McConkie had read Arizona law better. They apparently dropped the ball, and acted incompetent. They should have reported, because of the "exception" part of the law. They will have to live with this. 

Link to comment
17 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

 

Think of the pain that could have stopped, if Kirton and McConkie had read Arizona law better. They apparently dropped the ball, and acted incompetent. They should have reported, because of the "exception" part of the law. They will have to live with this. 

The exception is for them not to report abuse, not the reverse.
 

I think this is what the judge will need to decide if it qualified for that exception or not.
 

According to the article:

Quote

Clergy in Arizona are mandatory reporters for child abuse, with one significant exception called clergy privilege. Clergy privilege is when clergy learn about the abuse in a confidential form of communication.

 

Edited by Calm
Link to comment
2 minutes ago, Calm said:

The exception is for them not to report abuse, not the reverse.
 

I think this is what the judge will need to decide if it qualified for that exception or not.
 

According to the article:

 

 

3 minutes ago, Calm said:

The exception is for them not to report abuse, not the reverse.
 

I think this is what the judge will need to decide if it qualified for that exception or not.
 

According to the article:

 

I misunderstood, but I believe the church would have been fine to report then, without breaking Arizona law. The one place that this could have happened, too bad the church didn't absolutely jump on a time that they could report and be fine. Or is that the case everywhere. I know many believe that it's good to have this confidentiality because they think that more people will confess and may get help or allow the bishops to try to get the victims help, but clearly this wasn't a priority for these two bishops. This is where it went horribly wrong.

Link to comment
28 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

The one place that this could have happened,

Huh?  Are you saying Arizona is the only one that allows client privilege to be ignored in the case of child abuse?  If so, think there are a number of other states.  

It will be useful to hear more testimony about what happened. The court case when I reviewed it only had the report from the Homeland Security guy (involved because of the internet, iirc Interpol got involved as video was sold online over in Europe, but I may be confusing it with something else).  I will have to see if more is available (multiple police interviews). From what was reported, there were questions I had. 

Link to comment
Quote

this wasn't a priority for these two bishops. 

Iirc, the border agent/visiting teacher testified the bishops and ward were fully ready to help out the family if the mom ever agreed to it, providing funds and a place to go to be safe.  Not sure I want to go dig through my recaps of testimony though as it was so heartbreaking. 

Link to comment
3 hours ago, Calm said:

Iirc, the border agent/visiting teacher testified the bishops and ward were fully ready to help out the family if the mom ever agreed to it, providing funds and a place to go to be safe.  Not sure I want to go dig through my recaps of testimony though as it was so heartbreaking. 

No worries about digging through the old stuff, I remember a lot of it. But I'm sorry, this is so maddening to me, enabling a horrific crime to continue over and over again right in front of someone, or many, and not doing a thing.

Come what may, this should have been stopped at the first mention of him doing this. The bishop doesn't need to tell the guy he's reporting, he can have his wife call it in. And even lie about her doing so. Yes, a bald faced lie. In order to stop children from getting raped. Because that's what it was. There is no excuse, none. I probably wouldn't care if it was someone admitting to murder or an adultery, or stealing, or ? But I draw the line when it's abuse of children and this is the line that should be in the heads of any leader during a confession.

SEVEN YEARS these children had to suffer, or the rest of their lives unless they get the right care.

ETA: 

The reason I answered the way I did about the different state's laws is this c/p I saw elsewhere, so there are different laws out there:

1. There is a clergy exemption in Arizona (no legal mandatory *requirement* to report abuse)
 
Edited by Tacenda
Link to comment
5 hours ago, strappinglad said:

Has the wife/mother been held at all accountable in this case? If not, why not? 

Yes. She went to prison for 2 years iirc, and has no access to the children I believe. 
 

Her brother who is a chaplain (for some reason I Am thinking border patrol, but may be wrong) testified that she has always been socially awkward, the marriage was strange from the beginning (iirc they hid they were married), and that he thinks she likely has a learning disorder or something else that impedes her communication.  She definitely had and has big issues.  Sounds like she had them before marriage and he made them tons worse. I have no doubt she was physically and sexually abused by him. She claims now from the beginning of the marriage iirc. 

Edited by Calm
Link to comment

Iirc she said he tied her up for the first year, maybe just to rape her, but I am thinking maybe to prevent her from doing anything without him around. I really don’t want to go digging into the testimony again about the case it was so vile...even the nonsexual stuff.  He stopped after a year because she was ‘trained’.

He would give her the choice to beat the kids herself or have him beat them.  She would do the first so as to be gentler. But after he died, when asked appropriate punishment for children, she said they drink vinegar until they throw up, so either she absorbed twisted parenting from him or was never a very fit parent to begin with. 

Link to comment
3 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

Also, how does clergy-penitent privilege prevent reporting to law enforcement but not prevent discussing a case with church lawyers and leaders?

Whoa, I never thought of that! I'm pretty sure this was discussed with church leaders and lawyers. Edited to change my comment.

Edited by Tacenda
Link to comment
3 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

Also, how does clergy-penitent privilege prevent reporting to law enforcement but not prevent discussing a case with church lawyers and leaders?

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm assuming it is the same reason why a lawyer discussing a case with another lawyer doesn't break lawyer-client privileges.

Link to comment

If the bishop knew the man was involved in child porn, he could have expressly told mother that she needed to protect the children by leaving, and if she did not, he could have reported the mother for failure to protect the children from their father whom the bishop believed was a danger to the children.    That might not have been enough, but it would have been a try.   The mother's neglect (what amounts to co-dependency and probably fear and maybe horror) was surely secondary, but at least the agency might have been able to get her attention, and the children might have gotten interviewed earlier.

These cases are really tough.   It helps when bishops have some experience with how child welfare works, which they would only have if they'd been a foster parent or a guardian ad litem or CASA volunteer or a related professional who worked with the population, or had been in a position to talk to any in those categories.   I'm not sure the hotline has enough expertise to be able to suggest alternative ways of protecting the children when the non-perp parent is unable to do it.

Link to comment
5 hours ago, rpn said:

 

If the bishop knew the man was involved in child porn, he could have expressly told mother that she needed to protect the children by leaving, and if she did not, he could have reported the mother for failure to protect the children from their father whom the bishop believed was a danger to the children. 

 

The mother said she would not allow that to happen again when she was brought into the interview. I haven’t read anything that gives details for any of the later discussions between bishop or father.  There is nothing I recall that indicates the mother did anything beyond denying it was happening at other times.

There was nothing in terms of first hand experience with any confessions for the second bishop, so I don’t see a reason for him to be included in the lawsuit.  It would have just been hearsay and we have no clue what was actually told to him by the first bishop.

In the beginning when the father confessed to abuse, there is a very good chance he downplayed the severity of it as that is what abusers often do, justifying it or otherwise trying to make it appear less horrendous.  He was excommunicated later, but he was also an adulterer so I don’t think we can assume much about what was shared about the abuse, if anything as they might have been trying to protect the kids from gossip.  They wouldn’t need the mother as a witness or a confession if he was seen with another woman and apparently he was quite public in his behaviour, iirc. 
 

One of those times I wish for more transparency in the process. It would be reassuring to know the hotline was proactive as they could be about separating kids from parents in cases of danger, including to the extent of calling CPS.****. In this case it was undoubtedly complicated by awareness this man had a violent temper, likely had made threats, wore a gun, and the mother was in complete denial, the kids not talking and there was apparently no obvious physical signs of abuse, so there would be a good chance if appearances were actually all there was, the case would completely depend on getting mother or children to talk. And the Bishop’s experience would likely lead him to assume it wouldn’t happen.  Iirc it took sometime for the mom to admit it, definitely after he was arrested and maybe even after he committed suicide. I can’t remember if anything was said about the kids opening up once he was arrested. 
 

I wish there were church specialists assigned to visit wards in person where the family is in contact with the church so they could personally observe what was happening and offer advice...but that might be legally inappropriate for a church to do, issues of privacy or even inappropriate for a mental health professional to do. I don’t know about such things. 
 

Does that ever get done in schools?  Specialists visit the class to observe a child the teacher is concerned about, but hasn’t anything concrete to point to?

****On the other hand, I do think it needs to be more than just suspicion, even strong suspicion....though if guns or other forms of violence are known as in this case, then more action on less evidence is acceptable imo.  My nephew was separated from his parents for at least a day when he was hospitalized with bruising as a toddler and that appears to have been as traumatizing or more as the abuse by the babysitter (discovered to be the cause by police), though of course hard to separate as both occurred when his parents were not there. 

Edited by Calm
Link to comment

A promise to protect in a household where violence is occurring cannot be enough, and clearly wasn't enough.   Sure targeting the non-violent parent is an awful way to go.   But if she won't/can't prevent it (which she cannot because she is rightly afraid of him) then something else is required.  The point I was making is that the mother's failure to protect was not learned in a confessional and therefore not subject to the privilege.  I would also hope that bishops in this situation would have facilitated her connecting with community resources about domestic violence which can help families negotiate this in a safe way.

Link to comment
12 hours ago, rpn said:

The point I was making is that the mother's failure to protect was not learned in a confessional and therefore not subject to the privilege. 

But wouldn’t the need to protect having been learned in the confessional be a problem?

would it be acceptable to say “the mother hasn’t removed her children from an abusive situation with the father” and then when asked how you know it is abusive, say “I can’t tell you that”? (Serious question)

Link to comment
12 hours ago, rpn said:

would also hope that bishops in this situation would have facilitated her connecting with community resources about domestic violence which can help families negotiate this in a safe way.

All I know is she got hooked up with the border patrol, visiting teacher with a gun who wanted so bad to protect and serve. I am pretty sure the sister mentioned the ward had offered to help her in intelligent ways, but I don’t know if that came directly to the mother through the bishop, which would imo likely make a difference with someone like the mother, if anything would. 

Link to comment
On 12/7/2020 at 8:31 AM, Meadowchik said:

Also, how does clergy-penitent privilege prevent reporting to law enforcement but not prevent discussing a case with church lawyers and leaders?

Privilege allows you to discuss things with others in the same “clergy” or with their lawyers. In some cases bishops ask counselors or others to help and they are also shielded and/or hindered by this privilege.

Link to comment
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...