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06/01/89 West Virginia
James Adams “This case was filed in Raleigh County Circuit Court in Beckley, WV in
January, 1996. Adams was an “Ordained Elder” who sexually abused his own children,
even forcing them to make pornography which was confiscated by the state police. The suit
seeks $750 million dollars from the LDS Church and other defendants. The mother who
brought the case is identified only as Rebecca Doe. She alleges that LDS Church leaders
had known about the abuse since 1989 but did nothing about it until Adam’s arrest in 1994
(FIVE YEARS later).. Adams was sentenced to 76 to 185 years in prison. In 1997, the LDS
Church sought removal to the United States District Court in Charleston, WV, claiming a
federal question jurisdiction. In the fall, the federal court declined to accept jurisdiction and
sent it back to state court. Also in the fall of 1997, the West Virginia Supreme Court, in a 4-1
decision, upheld a trial court ruling that prevented plaintiff’s from serving subpoenas on
Mormon President Gordon B. Hinckley and other high officials and from seeking detailed
statements of LDS Church assets on the grounds they were too “oppressive and
burdensome” on the Church. The father first told several Mormon ward leader and
members in Beckley that he was abusing his children in 1989.” according to the
Houston Chronicle May 08, 1999 article by Paul McKay “Mormons Caught up in Wave of
Pedophile Accusations. The children were abused for 6 years and the father is serving a prison term totaling 173 years!”
from the New York Times on 1996-01-17:
Mormon Leaders in West Virginia Accused in Suit on Child Abuse
Published: January 17, 1996
A lawsuit filed today accuses local Mormon leaders of contributing to the repeated sexual abuse of two children by failing to report it to the authorities.
In 1989, the children’s father, James Adams, told at least three prominent members of the church in the town of Beckley, W.Va., that he had abused his daughter, then 4, and son, then 8, said Michael Sullivan, a lawyer for the children’s mother, Mr. Adams’s former wife.
But, despite a state law that requires clerics, teachers and health care providers to report suspected child abuse to the authorities, the church never notified them, Mr. Sullivan said. The silence, he added, cost the children an additional five years of sexual mistreatment. Mr. Adams is already awaiting criminal trial in the case.
“This is a prime example of an organization hijacked by its own success,” Mr. Sullivan said. “When confronted with evidence of sexual abuse, the church closed ranks in a conspiracy of silence to protect its own reputation at the expense of these children.”
Don LeFevre, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said church officials had not seen the lawsuit, which seeks $750 million, and could not comment specifically on the case.
“The church is not in the business of covering up,” Mr. LeFevre said. “We teach our members to obey the law.”
The lawsuit was filed in Raleigh County Circuit Court in Beckley for the children’s mother, identified only as Rebecca Doe of Alaska, on behalf of her daughter, who is now 11. A separate lawsuit will be filed on behalf of her son, Mr. Sullivan said.
At the time the lawsuit says the abuse occurred, Mr. Adams had custody of the children. His former wife later regained custody.
Mr. Adams was arrested in February 1994 after the state police had learned from his former wife that a 55-minute videotape had been made of the children being sexually assaulted. He is in prison awaiting trial after withdrawing a previous guilty plea.
Mr. Sullivan said that among the several church members to whom Mr. Adams had reported the abuse was his father, James Adams Sr., the bishop of the Beckley congregation.
“He wanted to be stopped,” Mr. Sullivan said. “I don’t think you have to be a psychologist to figure that out. Had anyone done anything to persuade this fellow to get help in 1989, he was probably quite willing to do it.”
But, Mr. Sullivan said, the church’s only response was to provide Mr. Adams monthly visits from two counselors for six months.
Mr. Adams pleaded guilty in June 1994 to a 37-count indictment and was sentenced to at least 75 years in prison. He was allowed to withdraw his plea last fall, however, and is to stand trial in the criminal case on April 29. An assistant Raleigh County prosecutor, Kristen Keller, said she had agreed to let him withdraw his plea because a trial could bring a longer prison sentence.”
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LDS/Mormon church membership historyAdd info | Back to top
LDS mission information
The accused did not serve a full-time LDS mission.
LDS temple marriage information
FLOODLIT is not aware whether the accused was married in a Mormon temple.
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Alleged crime(s)Add info | Back to top
Alleged victim(s)Add info | Back to top
- Number of alleged victim(s) - note if approximate:
- Average age of alleged victim(s) at time of alleged crime(s):
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LDS church response(s)Add info | Back to top
- Alleged failure to report by local LDS leaders? yes
- Alleged misconduct by local LDS leaders? yes
- Alleged misconduct by global LDS leaders? yes
Settlement amount paid by LDS church (in US dollars): undisclosed