Utah men sue LDS Church, pineapple company for alleged child sexual abuse

Posted at 3:51 PM, Jan 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-23 17:54:36-05

WAILUKU, MAUI – Attorneys for two Utah men filed a complaint in a Hawaii court that alleges the men were sexually abused in their youth while attending a pineapple camp run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Maui Land & Pineapple Company, Inc.

The suit alleges that the two men were abused by Brian Pickett, a man who worked in positions of authority at the camps, and the suit also names Youth Development Enterprises.

The complaint is available as a PDF: Filed complaint

According to a press release, attorneys said the LDS Church and ML&P recruited boys from Mormon communities in Utah and Idaho to pick pineapples in Maui, which is where the plaintiffs were allegedly sexually molested. Pickett was first a camp coordinator and then a vice president of operations overseeing two camps between 1986 and 1988, according to the release.

“There were hundreds of boys over more than a decade cycled through these camps,” attorney Randall Rosenberg said in the press release. “Hundreds were exposed to the alleged sexual predator in our case. We do not know how many others may have been molested, but our experience is that child sexual predators with access to kids have multiple victims.”

LDS Church Spokesman Cody Craynor released the following statement on behalf of the LDS Church in response to the lawsuit:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind and works actively to prevent abuse. This case was filed yesterday, and many details in the legal complaint are unclear. The Church will examine the allegations and respond appropriately.”

According to the lawsuit, Pickett allegedly molested the plaintiffs while they were boys at the ML&P barracks, and abuse of one boy allegedly went on at Pickett’s home. Pickett was the boy’s boss, as well as their spiritual leader, as he served as their Branch President. The suit alleges Picket baptized one 15-year-old boy and then sexually molested him.

“We believe Brian R. Pickett used his position over our clients as their supervisor and religious leader to gain access to the boys and manipulate them,” said attorney Craig Vernon in the release. “The [Mormon] Church marketed this as a safe, wholesome and exciting adventure; fly to Hawai’i and pick pineapples. That was extremely attractive to Mormon boys in Utah and Idaho in the 70s and 80s.”

The lawsuit was filed under a new Hawaii law that created a two-year window for child sexual abuse survivors to come forward, regardless of when the alleged abuse took place. That window is until April of 2014, according to the release.

In the press release, attorneys said they are seeking more than money and are asking the LDS Church to “take concrete steps to prevent future abuse and for the healing of the victims.”

The attorneys specifically suggested changing corporate policies that direct members and leaders to contact church officials rather than the police or child services when they suspect alleged child sexual abuse. They also suggested changing policies that state LDS Church leaders should try to avoid testifying in civil or criminal cases involving abuse. They suggested other measures relating to transparency and action in cases of alleged sexual abuse.

FOX 13 News will have more information as it becomes available.