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Abuse lawsuit against Latter-day Saint church president's family is dismissed

Posted at 3:57 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-25 00:49:09-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal lawsuit alleging sexual abuse involving relatives of the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been dismissed.

Court records show U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish agreed to dismiss the lawsuit this week at the request of lawyers for both the six unnamed plaintiffs and Brenda and Richard Miles, the daughter and son-in-law of Latter-day Saint leader Russell M. Nelson. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled again.

"The Miles are grateful for our judicial process that resulted in the dismissal of this case, which should never have been brought in the first place," James Jardine, the Miles' attorney, told FOX 13 on Friday.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2018, accused the couple of involvement in the sexual abuse of children in the 1980s in Bountiful. It also claimed there was a cover-up to halt police investigations. The lawsuit originally did not name the couple (using pseudonyms) but the Miles' attorney publicly disclosed their names and vigorously denied the accusations, arguing they were the product of false-memories from a therapist and that police had already investigated and found nothing to the claims. Within hours of the original lawsuit being filed, they asked a judge to dismiss it and issued a statement vigorously denying the accusations.

During the litigation, the unnamed plaintiffs who alleged abuse sought to depose President Nelson. The Church itself has called the claims of a cover-up "baseless and offensive."

The plaintiffs dropped the lawsuit after a recent Utah Supreme Court ruling, said their attorney, Craig Vernon. The ruling found that Utah's new law that removed the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse cannot be applied retroactively.

"The Miles brought a motion to dismiss arguing that the new (2015) statute extending the time to sue perpetrators was unconstitutional. Our case was stayed so that very issue could be determined by the Utah Supreme Court in Mitchell v Roberts. Our case was eviscerated when it was determined that these claims could not be revived and that this statute was unconstitutional," Vernon said in a statement to FOX 13.

The Utah Supreme Court's ruling not only impacts this case, but other pending lawsuits in state and federal courts. A state lawmaker and sex abuse survivors are discussing a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn the Utah Supreme Court's ruling in future cases.