Summarized by Kent Larsen
3 LDS Bishops Can't Be Charged For Failing To Report Sex Abuse
Deseret News (AP) 26Mar00 D1
By Kristen Moulton: Salt Lake Tribune
LOGAN, UTAH -- The county prosecutor in Logan, Utah says he can't
prosecute three LDS bishops for failing to report alleged child abuse
by 44-year-old Jay Toombs of Benson, Utah. Toombs faces three counts
of aggravated sexual abuse of a child for fondling a 10-year-old boy
in 1993 and 1994.
Scott Wyatt, Cache County attorney, had expressed concern that the
three bishops knew of the abuse and hadn't reported it. Last
Wednesday, Wyatt said as many as a dozen other people, including
family members, knew of the abuse and failed to report it. "Everyone
in our community is obligated to report it. They have not only a
legal obligation, but a moral obligation," Wyatt says.
But Wyatt says he can't prosecute any of them because the statute of
limitations has expired. Normally, the statute of limitations for
misdemeanors in Utah expires after two years. In some cases the
limitation is extended to four years. However, the alleged abuse
happened more than four years ago.
Wyatt has expressed his dismay in the case because Toombs' victims
have been many and the obstacles to his abuse have been so few. Since
the first three felony charges against him were filed in February,
more than a dozen phone calls have reached the Logan Police from
parents and alleged victims for allegations dating back more than 20
years in some cases. "We don't get cases of this magnitude very
often," says Logan Police Detective Rod Peterson.
LDS Church members are encouraged to tell their bishops about serious
crimes and violations of church doctrine in private. Under the law,
bishops are obligated to report allegations when they learn of them
from anyone except the alleged offender, according to Wyatt.
Meanwhile, a preliminary hearing in Toombs' case is scheduled for
Wednesday. Wyatt has added an additional count of sexual abuse for a
Toombs is a former Scoutmaster who taught clogging dance classes and
works as a private investigator. Because of his gregarious and
likable personality, even some people that claim he abused them speak
highly of him, according to Detective Peterson, "He expressed to
people that found out, in a very convincing way, that he was truly
sorry for what he'd done and it wouldn't happen again. They've
forgiven him. They believe him, that he's repented."
The allegations surfaced last year when the mother of one victim and
her LDS Social Services counselor reported Toombs to police. The
mother claims that she reported Toombs' abuse to a licensed substance
abuse counselor, two LDS bishops and members of Toombs' family,
including a brother who is an LDS stake president.
Both bishops told the mother they wanted to tell the police, but when
they consulted with LDS Church officials, were told not to. However,
Wyatt says that "like anything else, you can't pass that
responsibility on to anyone else."
Toombs' brother, Jerry Toombs, a stake president, denies the
allegation that he knew about his brother's abuse. Coincidentally,
Jerry Toombs was in the news last year for recommending that a
convicted child abuser, Shonn M. Ricks, serve a mission after he had
completed a 14-month sentence in prison. After the victim's father
complained, the mission call was withdrawn.
"I felt like I was going to the authorities," says the mother. "I
wanted to do what was right. I didn't want to see him go to prison. I
wanted him to get help. "I was always told to be patient with Jay, he
was a good man. That's what I was told again and again and again. I
was even given priesthood blessings that I had been chosen to help
him," she says.
Von Keetch, an attorney who often represents the LDS Church, and has
done so in several child abuse cases, told the Salt Lake Tribune,
"Our investigation indicates that these leaders acted appropriately."
He says that both bishops "made certain that local law enforcement
officials were aware of the abuse." While they didn't report Toombs
themselves, they both made sure that investigations had occurred.
Keetch says that the LDS Church's help line for bishops wouldn't
advise them to drop the matter simply because the abuser was
But Wyatt says that those who deal with pedophiles should beware,
"Pedophiles repeat. That much we know." Robb Parrish, chief child
abuse counsel in the Utah Attorney General's Office agrees, noting
that pedophiles get victims', and their parents', trust through their
charm. This trust often leads the victim and the parents to not
report the abuse. Unfortunately, according to Parrish, few people
realize that pedophilia is such a deep-seated aberration, leading
them to think that pedophiles can just stop, "That's the No. 1 reason
bishops think it can be handled quietly," he says. "It doesn't just
go away. They are not just in need of a little counseling," Parrish
adds. "They've got to have intensive intervention, with the threat of
prosecution held over their heads. The confessional situation is not