WV--WV Supreme Court says Mormon multi-state sex abuse lawsuit can move forward
WV Supreme Court says Mormon multi-state sex abuse lawsuit can move forward
Lawsuit alleges bishops covered up teen’s 2005 Utah conviction for sex offenses and recommended teen as babysitter for young families
Sexually violent offender, Michael Jensen, is serving 35 to 75-year sentence for child sexual abuse
Evidence points to widespread cover-up
In a stunning victory for nine victims of child sexual abuse in the Mormon Church, the West Virginia Supreme Court on Friday formally overturned a lower court, ruling there was evidence that high-ranking Mormon officials covered up for a sexually violent predator for years, allowing him to molest children in Utah and West Virginia.
According to the lawsuit, filed in Berkeley County, West Virginia, Mormon officials knew that a now-convicted sexually violent predator, Michael Jensen, had been convicted of sex offenses in Utah in 2005, allegedly molested his sister, and posed a risk to children—yet they still promoted him and recommended him as a babysitter to families and as a boarder in their homes. http://articles.herald-mail.com/2013-07-29/news/40878310_1_cheswick-drive-christopher-michael-jensen-martinsburg-man
The Supreme Court determined that this evidence was admissible and could be used to support the plaintiffs’ case.
The court also allowed evidence that actions taken by the Mormon Church, including a sexual abuse helpline, were made with the intention of protecting the Church from lawsuits, instead of preventing more abuse
“This is a cover-up of ‘Spotlight’ magnitude,” said Joelle Casteix of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPNetwork.org), the nation’s largest support group for men and women sexually abused in religious groups and institutions. “Fortunately, the victims will now get their day in court.”
The West Virginia Supreme Court’s 78-page opinion outlines Jensen's trail of abuse from 2004 to 2012, including a juvenile conviction for sexual abuse in 2005 in Utah, and allegations of abuse against his sisters and others after arriving in West Virginia.
According to the lawsuit, Jensen, the son of prominent Mormon officials, was protected and promoted within the Mormon community as a safe and family-friendly babysitter.
Church officials even allegedly encouraged families to allow the then-teen to live with them, while knowing that he had been criminally convicted for sexual abuse and saying nothing to the families about the risk.
At least nine children have come forward to say they were abused by Jensen. He is now serving a 35 to 75-year prison sentence in West Virginia and was designated by the convicting criminal court as a “dangerous sexual predator.”
The complete ruling can be viewed here: http://www.courtswv.gov/supreme-court/docs/spring2017/16-0008.pdf
SNAP encourages anyone with information about Jensen to report to law enforcement.
“It is always safe to report sexual abuse, no matter the offender,” Casteix said. “When powerful churches and institutions force victims and the faithful into silence, it is up to all of us to stand up and demand truth and transparency."
The attorneys representing the nine victims and their families include Carl Kravitz and Caroline Mehta of Zuckerman Spaeder, LLP in Washington, D.C. (202-778-1800).
Joelle Casteix, SNAP Western Regional Leader, [email protected] (949) 322-7434
Barb Dorris, SNAP Managing Director, [email protected] (314) 503-0003