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(2nd) Update on Arizona Abuse Case


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We previously had a discussion (also discussed here) about Paul Adams, a man in Arizona who abused his children, who was excommunicated for his abuse, and who later committed suicide.

And another discussion here in 2020: Update on AZ Abuse Case

Here is a second update:

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The attorney who filed a complaint against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and some of its former clergy and associates may depose a handful of individuals who are not named in the lawsuit, a judge decided last week, a significant victory for the plaintiffs in the case.

In a 2½-hour hearing April 20 in Cochise County Superior Court Judge Laura Cardinal's courtroom that was at times contentious, Cardinal granted attorney Lynne Cadigan's long-standing motion to depose several people whom Cadigan claims had knowledge of the abuse that three children suffered for seven years at the hands of their father.

I think this is an important point to address, as there is necessarily tension between A) the priest/penitent privilege, and B) the plaintiff's right to collect information.

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Cadigan filed a civil complaint in 2020 against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others associated with it for not reporting the brutal mistreatment the youngsters suffered. The children and their parents were members of the church’s Bisbee ward, the complaint states.

The case was summed up in this paragraph on the opening page of the complaint: “This case involves horrible sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children between the ages of six (6) weeks and twelve (12) years old that went on for seven (7) years. The biological father of these victims made videos of his rapes and now these videos are everywhere on the world wide web. The perpetrator admitted his abuse and crimes to his Mormon Church, and received counseling for his crimes. The Mormon Church leaders knew about the abuse and yet no one reported these crimes to the authorities. The Mormon Church leaders gave guidance and care to these children for seven (7) years, sat next to them in Church and allowed these vicious crimes to continue.”

Leaders in that organization were aware that the victims' father, Paul Adams, was abusing the children because Adams sought counseling with church leaders for his acts, the complaint states.

We'll see how much of this is borne out, I suppose.  What a terrible, terrible thing for these children to endure.

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Adams was employed as a U.S. Border Patrol agent until his arrest in February 2017. He committed suicide in December 2017 in a Florence jail cell.

The children's mother, Leizza Adams, was sentenced to 2½ years in prison after pleading no contest to two counts of child abuse in 2018. She was given four years probation, court records show.

Cadigan has said church elders are trying to claim clergy privilege as a defense for not divulging what occurred in the Adams household.

The church has been under criminal investigation by the Cochise County Attorney's Office for several months but charges have yet to be filed. 

Hmm.  I think it's not often the Church is "under criminal investigation."

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The lawyer representing the defendants in the criminal matter is Paul Charlton, a former U.S. attorney for Arizona whose firm in Phoenix handles mostly high-profile clients.

In the motion to depose non-party individuals in the civil case, Cadigan states she wants to interview eight people who know about the children's ordeal.  

"These witnesses possess first hand knowledge of plaintiffs, plaintiffs' abuse, and/or critical non-parties like plaintiff's mother Leizza Adams," Cadigan said. "By deposing these specific non-party witnesses, plaintiffs seek to answer three critical questions: What was known? When was it known? And, by whom?"

Cadigan said the questions "are imperative for establishing notice among various defendants of plaintiffs' years long sexual abuse." 

 

One of the attorneys representing the church and former clergy John Herrod and Robert Kim Mauzy in the civil matter argued Wednesday  the depositions are irrelevant to the civil complaint.

"This is a simple, straightforward case," said attorney William Maledon. "This case, at its core, is based on the Arizona Reporting statute (A.R.S. § 13-3620) which imposes on certain individuals that they must report known abuse.

"The statute contains one very important exception — the clergy," Maledon added.

The statute says various individuals, including teachers, parents, stepparents, doctors, law enforcement officers or anyone who has care or custody of a minor must report abuse. 

But the law excludes clergy: "A member of the clergy, a Christian Science practitioner or a priest who has received a confidential communication or a confession in that person's role as a member of the clergy, as a Christian Science practitioner or as a priest in the course of the discipline enjoined by the church to which the member of the clergy, the Christian Science practitioner or the priest belongs may withhold reporting of the communication or confession if the member of the clergy, the Christian Science practitioner or the priest determines that it is reasonable and necessary within the concepts of the religion. This exemption applies only to the communication or confession and not to personal observations the member of the clergy, the Christian Science practitioner or the priest may otherwise make of the minor."

I am not sufficiently familiar with the contours of the priest/penitent privilege in Arizona.  

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The judge, seeming somewhat flustered with Maledon's effort to simplify the case, asked, "Aren't you understating the magnitude of this case?"  

Maledon didn't respond, but seconds later told Cardinal that the privilege enjoyed by the clergy in the statute "dictates that the case should be dismissed."

But Cardinal disagreed, saying that the case was anything but simple.

" ... We can't just close this case down," she said. "This is an important case for Arizona, it's an important case for the church and it's an important case for the children.

"This is such a complex case that it has gone into another division of the court. To not take these depositions would not be appropriate. Given the complexity of the case, I can't just narrow it down to the statute."

Sounds like the judge is talking about factual complexity, whereas the Church's attorney is talking about legal complexity.  A big difference between the two.

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The judge ordered the release of certain portions of Shaunice Warr's employment file with the Border Patrol. Warr was a Border Patrol agent at the same station in Cochise County where Adams was employed. She was a member of the Bisbee ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was close with Leizza Adams, Cadigan has said. Warr visited the Adams residence a handful of times as a teacher for the Adams children in her capacity as a church member.

I'm confused about this.  I can't imagine that the priest/penitent privilege would apply to Shaunice Warr at all.  

It would be an interesting question of whether Warr A) knew about the abuse, B) learned about the abuse through visits to the home "in her capacity as a church member," and C) did not report the abuse.  Would the Church be liable for that failure to report?  

Anyway, a truly terrible story, but I thought you all might want to know.

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

It would be an interesting question of whether Warr A) knew about the abuse, B) learned about the abuse through visits to the home "in her capacity as a church member," and C) did not report the abuse.

Iirc (I read transcripts of part of the trial of the mom iirc, since he killed himself), Warr said she suspected the mother was abused and worked hard to help, but the mother denied it until after the father was arrested.  Warr even offered to give her armed protection to leave her husband, iirc, again refused.  The kids were quiet about home and wore long sleeves and skirts, but said nothing to confirm her suspicions (she had been their Primary teacher and iirc had been called as the mother’s visiting  teacher because she had established a relationship with the mom based on this).

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

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She is the best friend of the mother's and taught all the kids minus the youngest in Primary.  Rarely went to the house as the father didn't allow visitors.  When he was out of town went over to watch stuff on church TV.  She could tell the family had issues and the mom would hang around church not wanting to go home as it was the only place he allowed her to go without him.  So she intentionally made friends with her and was made her visiting teacher as well.  She would sit with the family during SM.  Looks like she prodded a lot hoping her friend would open up about what was happening at home.  The kids never said anything about their dad, which she saw as a bad sign.  Mom didn't open up about the abuse until after he was arrested ( this counteracts what was said elsewhere about her being told around the same time as the bishop unless I misread it).

https://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/72834-what-a-nightmare/?do=findComment&comment=1209969680

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

Added:  can’t find links  in the threads to the transcript I read and reported on of the sentencing hearing of the mom, blew it there (added: found them on Mormon leaks, can’t remember if I considered posting the link as breaking board rules or it was personal bias, won’t post them now in respect of that choice, easy enough to find them if desired), so adding a legal document link and new info to me relating to the case here for future reference for me in case this comes up again.

https://quincy-network.s3.ca-central-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/39/2020/11/Jane-Doe-1-v-Mormon-Church-1.pdf

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Warr would observe and help the Adams family at least once a week, paying bills, offering advice, providing counseling and general care…

Warr was also Plaintiffs’ Sunday school teacher at the Church. The ward was so small that the only children in Warr’s Sunday school class were Plaintiffs and their siblings. Warr taught the children how to shoot, how to play piano and many other things. Warr became Leizza’s best friend and was very concerned about taking care of her. Warr had frequent contact and responsibility for the family, and developed a special relationship with the Adams family pursuant to the Defendant’s mandates…

Warr observed stark differences in Plaintiffs’ behavior when Paul was in town versus when Paul was out of town. When Paul was in town, Plaintiffs were extremely combative, tense, silent, and restrained. When Paul was out of town, the kids were kids, and Plaintiffs would relax…

Warr’s observations of Plaintiffs led her to believe that Plaintiffs were abused and lived in fear…

Warr had Leizza move in with her once the children were removed, and acting in loco parentis attended the meetings with the Minor Plaintiffs and their case managers to help determine the best course of action for the children.

Since Warr testified she only suspected, the statements in this document that she knew of the abuse and reported it to church leaders seem to be overstatements.  Later in the document they say her “reasonable belief”, not knowledge, meant it was not under confidentiality law (she was acting at times as an agent of the Church).

Edited by Calm
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23 hours ago, smac97 said:

.............................

I think this is an important point to address, as there is necessarily tension between A) the priest/penitent privilege, and B) the plaintiff's right to collect information.

We'll see how much of this is borne out, I suppose.  What a terrible, terrible thing for these children to endure.

Hmm.  I think it's not often the Church is "under criminal investigation."

I am not sufficiently familiar with the contours of the priest/penitent privilege in Arizona.  

Sounds like the judge is talking about factual complexity, whereas the Church's attorney is talking about legal complexity.  A big difference between the two.

I'm confused about this.  I can't imagine that the priest/penitent privilege would apply to Shaunice Warr at all 

It would be an interesting question of whether Warr A) knew about the abuse, B) learned about the abuse through visits to the home "in her capacity as a church member," and C) did not report the abuse.  Would the Church be liable for that failure to report?  .......................

We might learn something from examining Roman Catholic abuse cases in Arizona.  The priest-penitent privilege would presumably only extend to the father confessor, and not to nuns, monks, or other Roman Catholic members (including teachers in a parochial school, or doctors, or school nurses, all of whom are mandated reporters).

Similarly, the privilege would not extend to LDS members who are home teachers or visiting sisters, or other ordinary members, but only to the bishop.  The LDS Church should long ago have settled this question with finality in the Handbook of Instructions, while insisting that mandated reporters immediately go to the police in any case of abuse.  That there is still confusion in this matter I find astonishing.

In my opinion, any Latter-day Saint (except a bishop) who does not immediately report abuse to the police should be excommunicated -- including any wife who allows a husband or other family member to abuse without reporting the matter to the police.  Temporizing only exacerbates the problem.

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I don’t think this case is a good example of anything but Bishop confidentiality.
 

The plaintiffs are arguing both that Warr, the Primary/Visiting teacher, was acting as an agent of the Church and not just as a friend (I would agree there were times she was an agent…any visiting she did for visiting teaching, interaction with kids for Primary) and that she was aware of the abuse and reported it to her leaders. However, Warr herself states she only had suspicions and never was able to confirm it. The attorney may be jumping to conclusions based on the state of the house when the arrest took place (sex toys, etc in plain view in living area) as maybe the mother cleaned stuff away when she knew Warr was coming and contradicts themselves at times where they say Warr was told by others and then later say she would have had enough reasonable suspicions about abuse that she was required to report her suspicions. 
 

However, I have only been able to read the sentencing transcripts and the appeal by the attorney, not a rebuttal, so the original statements of witnesses and the defendants may provide more info that makes the conclusion Warr knew of the abuse beyond a reasonable doubt or whatever is the standard in a civil case.

Is being practically certain there was abuse based on primarily gut feelings (iirc this is close to how Warr described her suspicions) a legal standard for mandatory reporting? (Serious question)

Edited by Calm
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