Judge to decide if church must reveal name of second accuser in sex abuse case

Judge to decide if church must reveal name of second accuser in sex abuse case

(Tom Smart, Deseret News, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge wants to know more about a second woman who alleges a former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Missionary Training Center sexually assaulted her when she was a missionary in 1984.

Attorneys for McKenna Denson argued in court Monday that the woman's accusation is relevant to her lawsuit against the church. The name of the woman, who reported the alleged assault to local church leaders in 2010, has not been publicly disclosed.

"It tends to prove what our client says happened at the MTC," Denson's lawyer Craig Vernon said.

Denson alleges Joseph Bishop raped her in a basement room while she was a missionary at the MTC. Bishop has denied the accusation.

Church attorney David Jordan questioned the relevance of the woman's claim, saying there is no dispute that the church did not have that information prior to Bishop being assigned to the MTC. The accusation isn't admissible as evidence because one person's allegation can't be used to prove another person's allegation, he said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead intends to hold a closed hearing in his office to decide whether the church must reveal the woman's name as part of Vernon's sweeping request for evidence, including the names and contact information for thousands of former missionaries. A trial is scheduled for July 2020.

The church issued a statement in March 2018 saying it was aware of one other woman who told her local ecclesiastical leaders that she was sexually abused by Bishop while he served as president of the Provo-based MTC.

"When she reported the alleged abuse to her local church leaders in 2010, they provided emotional support as well as professional counseling services. Mr. Bishop’s local ecclesiastical leaders were contacted and they confronted him with her claims, which he denied, and local leaders did not feel they could pursue church discipline for Mr. Bishop," according to the statement.

Jordan said in court that the woman was not at the MTC at the same time as Denson and that the alleged assault did not happen on campus. He said the woman was on temporary medical leave from the training center at the time.

Denson sued Bishop and the church in April 2018 for sexual assault and battery, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, fraudulent nondisclosure and fraudulent concealment.

Judge Dale Kimball tossed out all but one of Denson's claims last fall, saying the statute of limitations had expired. He allowed to stand her contention that the church hid Bishop's predatory sexual behavior.

Much of Monday's hearing centered on information Vernon wants the church to provide, including names, email addresses and phone numbers for 9,000 sister missionaries who went through the MTC during Bishop's three-year tenure as well for missionaries who served under him when he presided over a mission in Argentina.

Pead narrowed down the request to names and last known addresses of missionaries who were at the MTC when Denson was there in January and February 1984. He also will consider paring down other requests in what he called a "challenging" case.

Jordan argued that Vernon is "just fishing" and that the church's records don't capture all the information he's seeking.

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.


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