Summarized by Kent Larsen
LDS Bishop Maintains He Wasn't Required To Report
SANDY, UTAH -- LDS Bishop David West Maxwell says that the
prosecutors who charged him with failing to report a case of sexual
abuse between two teenagers are wrong, and that he wasn't required to
report the abuse, given the circumstances. Maxwell claims both
teenagers committed acts that could be called sexual abuse, and that
both confessed to him, obligating him to keep the matter
confidential. Under Utah law clergy do not have to report sexual
abuse if their only source of information is the perpetrator.
Maxwell was arrested and charged with failure to report sexual abuse
in March after the teenage girl told her LDS Seminary teacher that
she had been raped. Maxwell only went to the police about the matter
after he learned that the Seminary teacher had reported the claim.
But Maxwell says that he counselled with both teenagers following the
December 1999 incident, discovering that the girl had first touched
the boy's genitals in a consensual act. His lawyer, John Welsh, says
that because the girl was older and more mature, the touching makes
her a perpetrator also. Maxwell reportedly counselled with the Stake
President and called the LDS Church's help line about the incident
and was told he did not need to report the abuse.
But prosecutors disagree with Maxwell's interpretation. They say that
consensual touching is not a crime under Utah law. And Salt Lake
County deputy attorney Jennifer Barton goes further, saying that if
in doubt, Maxwell should have reported, "If there is a doubt as to
who is a perpetrator, report it and let the proper authorities sort
it out," Barton said.
Meanwhile, the girl's charge that the boy forced her to have sex with
him has led to a charge of first-degree felony rape, which will go to
trial next week. Maxwell's trial has been postponed for a month while
Judge Donald Sawaya considers Welsh's arguments, which were filed in
support of a motion to dismiss the charges against Maxwell.
Fight Continues Over Abuse Reporting
Salt Lake Tribune 29Jul00 D1
By Stephen Hunt: Salt Lake Tribune