Woman who accused former MTC leader of sexual assault will pursue a civil lawsuit against the LDS Church

Posted at 4:25 PM, Mar 22, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY -- The woman who has accused the former head of Provo's Missionary Training Center of sexual assault will pursue a civil lawsuit against him and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, her attorney confirmed to FOX 13.

The woman's attorney was in settlement talks with the LDS Church before an audio recording she made with former MTC President Joseph Bishop was posted by the MormonLeaks website.

"Since the leak, there have been no further settlement discussions. My client deserves justice. If the settlement discussion door remains closed, then a lawsuit against the Church and Mr. Bishop is our remaining option," the woman's attorney, Craig Vernon, told FOX 13 on Thursday.

Police reports released under public records requests detail the woman's accusations against Bishop and also show that very little was done about it. Brigham Young University police were contacted in November 2017 to investigate the woman's claims that dated back to 1984 when she said Bishop attacked her in a storage room.

"She resisted and he then ripped her blouse open, pushed her on the bed, ripped her skirt, and pulled down her panty hose and garments. [Name redacted] then said sexual intercourse occurred without her consent..." the report stated.

The BYU police report said that Joseph did admit to some inappropriate conduct, but denied any rape accusations.

"Joseph told us that he did go to his small MTC preparation room in the cafeteria area with [name redacted]. Then while talking to her he asked her to show him her breasts which she did. When asked to explain why his account about the rape was different that hers, he said he either can't remember it or that [name redacted] was exaggerating her account," the report said.

Read the BYU police report here:

A note attached to the report from deputy Utah County Attorney David Sturgill said he would have pursued a criminal case against Bishop -- except the statute of limitations on sex crimes had expired.

"I have no reason to doubt the victim's disclosure, and would have likely prosecuted Mr. Bishop, but for the expiration of the statute of limitations," he said.

The woman's recorded confrontation with Bishop (who is now 85) has him claiming he does not remember any sexual assault, but also apologizing for other sexual misconduct. The recording has sparked outrage directed at the LDS Church over whether it failed to protect people making abuse accusations.

The LDS Church said in a statement released earlier this week it reported a disclosure of sex assault claims to Pleasant Grove police in 2010. That police report, obtained under a public records request, reveals that police turned around and investigated the woman for making threats against Bishop. She told officers she did not seriously mean any harm and "no further action was taken."

The woman may not be able to get prosecutors to pursue any of her allegations against Bishop because of a statute of limitations, but laws recently changed by the Utah State Legislature will allow her to pursue civil litigation. A bill co-sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, and Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, removed barriers to the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits over sex abuse claims.

"I’m very gratified that any steps we can take to help victims in these situations heal and seek redress and have the cost of that harm be put on the perpetrator," said Rep. Ivory, who attended the MTC as a Mormon missionary during Bishop's tenure.

Rep. Romero said it was important for alleged victims to be able to have their day in court.

"Oftentimes as we're seeing in this particular case, they're shamed, they're accused of making false allegations," she said. "This gives them the opportunity to present what happened to them and maybe get justice."

Speaking to reporters at his monthly news conference on KUED, Gov. Gary Herbert said he was unaware of specifics of the case but sexual harassment should not be tolerated, and claims should be investigated.

"Anybody that has a complaint ought to feel comfortable bringing forward to the appropriate authorities that complaint, and do it in a timely fashion and know that it's going to be investigated," he said. "We'll find out the truth or falsehood of the allegations, what's taken place, and, if there's violations of the law, people ought to be punished."

Asked about the potential civil litigation, an LDS Church spokesman told FOX 13: "The Church has great faith in the judicial system to determine the truth of these claims."