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FLOODLIT believes that a 28-year-old married man spending time naked in a hot tub with a naked 15-year-old girl who is not related to him, and with whom he occupies a position of trust in a religious context, is almost certainly child sexual abuse.
We also rarely mention the names of abuse victims. In this case, we are naming the victim because she came forward to the press in 2010, naming herself. She was Cheryl Maher, who later married Eric Knight, a convicted sexual abuser in our database.
In 1985, Kevin Garn, a Mormon church member and Utah politician, took a 15-year-old girl to a private location in Salt Lake City and got into a hot tub together with her. Both were nude.
Kevin Garn was never criminally charged for his behavior in the 1985 incident, which he admitted to being “inappropriate.”
In 2010, Garn said that he had paid his alleged victim $150,000 to keep quiet about the incident when he ran for Congress in 2002.
At one time, Garn was responsible for ethics legislation in Utah.
Garn once served as a bishop in the LDS church – years after the 1985 hot tub incident. He also served as his alleged victim’s Sunday School teacher several years prior to that incident.
from KSL (owned by the LDS church) on 2010-03-12:
“SALT LAKE CITY — House Majority Leader Kevin Garn shocked the Legislature on the final night of the 2010 session, by confessing he paid a woman half his age $150,000 in 2002, to keep quiet about what he says was non-sexual encounter from 1983.
Garn says he got into a hot tub, naked, with a girl half his age when he was 28. He is currently 55.
To a hushed chamber packed with fellow lawmakers, spouses, and interns waiting to celebrate the Legislature’s final night, Garn read a prepared statement.
In a soft voice over the House chamber speaker system, Garn accepted full responsibility for what happened, apologizing to fellow lawmakers for any possible embarrassment the news of the encounter might cause.
“Representatives, 25 years ago, I made a mistake that has come back to haunt me,” Garn said in a statement on the House floor.
Who is… Kevin Garn?
A Republican member of the Utah House of Representatives, representing the 16th district in Layton since 2007
The current Utah House Majority Leader
Attended Weber State University
“I was 28 years old, and I foolishly went hot-tubbing with a girl half my age. Although we did not have sexual contact, it was clearly inappropriate, and it was my fault.”
The woman has been identified as Cheryl Maher, who now lives in New Hampshire. Maher contacted reporters at both papers, as well as several legislators, and is talking about her interaction with Garn.
She is quoted in both papers as saying, “I did not want to lash out and hurt anybody. This has just been a nightmare for me…. I just want to tell the truth because it’s part of the healing process for me.”
The Tribune reports Maher worked for Garn at his business, Pegasus Records and KSG Enterprises, when she was 15. She says that, although Garn was married, he took her to a Salt Lake City location, where the hot tub encounter occured.
Maher claims to reporters at both newspapers that her life unraveled over time, which she attributes to the incident. She says she has mental health issues, as well as addictions to prescription drugs and alcohol.
Over time, Garn says the girl claimed the experience impacted her negatively.
Garn says that when he ran for Congress in 2002, the woman came to him demanding $150,000.
“While this payment felt like extortion, I also felt I should take her word that the money would help her heal. She agreed to keep this 25-year-old encounter confidential. Now this incident has come up again, it has become apparent to me that this payment was a mistake,” Garn said.
Garn says the woman contacted several reporters, effectively reviving the story.
Rep. Garn said he now wants to be open about what happened, rather than living in fear. He says he told his wife Tanya and the rest of his family about the incident years ago and received forgiveness.
“I may not deserve their forgiveness, but they have given it. My primary concern at this point is that my wife and the rest of my family know how much I love them. I’m sorry for this incident,” Garn said.
Garn also publicly apologized to the woman for the incident. “And I apologize to you, my colleagues for any shame this brings to the Utah Legislature.”
After the speech, Garn received overwhelming support from his colleagues.
An emotional House Speaker David Clark spoke on behalf of the House.
“We know a man of integrity, leadership, who is willing to give a helping hand to every member of this body, Clark said.”
“You are an asset to the state of Utah. I ask that all of us share in honoring a man that we know has served honorably and capably in this body, and we’re proud to do so.” Clark then led the House in a standing ovation.
At this point it is not clear whether Garn will continue to run for election this fall.
A House staff member expressed regret over the emergence of the story, referring to the woman in question as potentially ‘unbalanced’, and once again seeking financial gain.
Regardless, Representative Garn decided to come clean, rather than to continue living in fear, he said.
The Deseret News reports it learned of the allegations against Garn just prior to the GOP primary election in 2002. The paper decided not to publish a story at that time because the GOP primary was only weeks away and the incident had occurred years before.”
from the Salt Lake Tribune on 2010-03-13:
“After an initial meeting with Garn and his wife in Maher’s LDS bishop’s office, Garn sent her a check from his personal account for $20,000, which she rejected. Maher said her husband at the time wanted more.
“I will be happy to pay $150,000 to Cheryl and hope that will bring some degree of peace in her life,” Garn wrote in a Jan. 21, 2003, e-mail — months after the wealthy business owner, who has interests in everything from banks to hotels, had lost the congressional primary.
In a handwritten note dated Jan. 29, 2003, he apologized for injecting “all this legal stuff in this process of healing and restitution.” But he asked the Mahers to review some legal documents and let him know if they were acceptable. “As soon as I receive the document, I will send you a check. Thanks, Kev.”
There was periodic contact afterward. They met in Boston in 2006 and Garn paid for her to travel from New Hampshire to attend her high school reunion in Utah in 2007. In 2008, Maher sent a letter to LDS President Thomas S. Monson, laying out her allegations against Garn. She later contacted Garn’s son via e-mail, saying she had sought the church’s help “with getting restitution from him.””
from the Layton Standard-Examiner on 2010-03-15:
“LAYTON — Cheryl Maher feels betrayed by authority figures on several levels: by a former boss, a local politician, a Sunday school teacher and a church bishop.
According to Maher, they are all the same man; that being Kevin Garn, the Layton lawmaker who sat naked in a hot tub 25 years ago with Maher when she was 15.
In 2008, Maher tried to get the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church of her upbringing, to formally act on that betrayal.
“I am not seeking revenge. I am seeking justice and want to stop a man who has a powerful position in life and needs to be stopped before more damage is done,” wrote Maher, in a copy of the letter she says she sent to LDS President Thomas S. Monson.
The letter was released to the Standard-Examiner by Maher late Sunday night.
Maher also sent a copy of the letter she received from Brook P. Hales, secretary to the First Presidency, which was a three-sentence response that included “the matter will be given further review.”
Maher claims that she received no further word from church officials.
Garn, a longtime Utah House representative, publicly admitted Thursday to the hot-tub incident with Maher, now a 40-year-old New Hampshire resident.
The former majority leader announced on the floor of the House that he had paid $150,000 to Maher during his failed congressional campaign in 2002, and had her sign a confidentiality agreement. Garn, a former LDS bishop, said he hoped the money would help her heal.
On Saturday, Garn, a 55-year-old prominent business owner, resigned from his District 16 seat.
“I sincerely apologize for becoming a distraction to the conclusion of an otherwise remarkable legislative session,” Garn wrote in his resignation letter.
Maher said in an e-mail that Garn was her Sunday school teacher when she was in the fourth grade. She later worked for Garn, as a warehouse employee at KSG Distribution, one of Garn’s businesses.
Garn maintains there wasn’t sexual contact with Maher in the hot tub, nor does Maher detail the incident.
In her letter to the First Presidency in August 2008, she gives details of her troubled life and outlines repeated contact with Garn.
“The 2008 letter sent by Ms. Maher to Church headquarters was referred to local ecclesiastical leaders to be addressed. Church disciplinary matters are handled at a local level and not at Church headquarters,” wrote LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter in an e-mail on Monday.
Maher said she has met with church leaders both in Utah and New Hampshire to talk about the incident.
“Legal requirements concerning priest-penitent privilege prevent the Church from talking about the specifics of meetings between members and ecclesiastical leaders,” wrote Trotter.
Maher admits the incident haunts her and that she has trouble letting it go. But she did let go of the church and no longer calls herself Mormon.
“I believe the Church holds a great deal of responsibility in this and if the proper accountability would have been given at the times of my reports then all of this could have been avoided,” wrote Maher on Saturday in a statement to the press.
Trotter said the LDS Church will continue to follow this matter to determine if any further action is appropriate.”
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- Garn confession: ‘I made a mistake that has come back to haunt me' - 2010-03-12 (archive) - -
- Lawmaker’s Admission Shocks Utah - New York Times - 2010-03-13 (archive) - -
- Cheryl Maher's 2008 letter to LDS President Thomas S. Monson / Garn's accuser releases additional information to Standard-Examiner - Layton Standard-Examiner - 2010-03-15 (archive) - -
- Garn's bombshell blows away lawmakers - Salt Lake Tribune - 2010-03-13 (archive) - -
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: 1
- Average age of alleged victim(s) at time of alleged crime(s): 15
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LDS church response(s)Add info | Back to top
LDS church response
- Date: March 2010
- Statement by LDS church representative:
"The 2008 letter sent by Ms. Maher to Church headquarters was referred to local ecclesiastical leaders to be addressed. Church disciplinary matters are handled at a local level and not at Church headquarters."
- Name of LDS church representative: Scott Trotter
- Position of LDS church representative: LDS church spokesman
- Alleged failure to report by local LDS leaders? no
- Alleged misconduct by local LDS leaders? no
- Alleged misconduct by global LDS leaders? yes
FLOODLIT is not aware whether the Mormon church paid any settlement amounts related to this case.