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For week ended March 26, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 27Mar00

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 1989 incident.

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 repentant.

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 enough."


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