was a Mormon church member in Lake Elsinore, California; arrested in 1997; pleaded guilty to committing lewd acts with a child under age 14; spent three years in state prison; in December 2022, the LDS church paid $995,000 to settle its part of a related civil lawsuit wherein a jury awarded the victim $2.28 billion

Case Summary

Thanks to your support and information tips, FLOODLIT has been able to identify the abuser’s name in this case. However, we have decided not to publish his name here, to shield the victim’s identity.

We urge all who read the details of this case to be sensitive to the victim’s desire for anonymity and privacy.

During the abuser’s criminal sentencing in California after his arrest in 1997, only one person, an adult who was not LDS, sat with the victim on one side of the courtroom. The LDS members, including her mother and bishop, sat on the abuser’s side.

From the Associated Press on 2023-04-27:

“RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A woman who was molested for years by her stepfather has been awarded $2.28 billion by a California jury in a lawsuit that also implicated her mother and the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in which both parents were active, her attorneys announced.

The panel in Riverside County Superior Court awarded damages Tuesday to a woman described in court papers only as Jane Doe, who said she was sexually assaulted by her stepfather from age 5 until she was 14, according to an announcement by the law firm of Gary A. Dordick.

The lawsuit alleged that beginning in the 1980s, the stepfather sexually abused the girl. The assaults took place at their Lake Elsinore home and at events, meetings, and property of the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the lawsuit said.

“These ongoing acts of abuse brought Plaintiff to the brink of suicide,” according to the lawsuit.

In addition to the stepfather, the negligence and sexual abuse suit also named the church and the woman’s mother. It alleged that the woman repeatedly told church officials, including local bishops, about the sexual abuse but that they failed to report it to law enforcement in violation of church policy and also used “intimidation and shaming tactics” to keep her from telling anyone outside the church.

The AP is not naming the stepfather nor the mother to shield the identity of the victim. An email to the stepfather’s attorney seeking comment wasn’t returned.

The stepfather was arrested in 1997 after Jane Doe told her high school basketball coach about the abuse, the suit said. He pleaded guilty to committing lewd acts with a child under age 14 and spent three years in state prison, according to the lawsuit.

While denying wrongdoing, the church settled its part of the lawsuit for $1 million in December, and the woman’s mother settled for $200,000 in February, according to the woman’s lawyers.

The stepfather failed to appear at trial on the first day of jury selection and withdrew his answer to the lawsuit rather than face a warrant for his arrest, and “accordingly, his attorney was not able to participate in the trial,” the law firm said in an email.”

From the Los Angeles Daily News on 2023-04-27:

“A Riverside County jury has awarded $2.28 billion — perhaps the largest amount in a child sexual-assault case in U.S. history — to the stepdaughter of a one-time Lake Elsinore church elder who admitted in his criminal trial decades ago to committing lewd acts on a minor.

Before the jury on Tuesday, April 25, ordered the man to pay $836 million in general damages and $1.44 billion in punitive damages, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints settled out of court for $1 million and the woman’s mother agreed to pay $200,000, according to the attorney for the woman, who is now 41.

The stepfather did not show up to the civil trial, said the lawyer, Gary A. Dordick. The jury returned the verdict on the third day of deliberations.

The Southern California News Group is not identifying the relatives to protect the victim.

“Mrs. Doe wants everyone to know there is no shame in being a victim of abuse,” Dordick said.

The victim does not expect to receive much of the award, Dordick said, with her stepfather in his 70s and working in a trophy shop.

But she felt vindicated.

“It’s part of her healing process to have this despicable person held responsible,” the lawyer said. “The jury verdict was very satisfying to her emotionally. We would like to take whatever he has as punishment.”

Dordick told jurors that if Fox Corp. agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million to settle the defamation lawsuit that damaged the voting machine company’s reputation, then his client was entitled to at least $1.6 billion in combined damages for suffering physical abuse.

The lawyer said he is not aware of a larger award in a similar case: “We think it’s the biggest. I’ve been doing this 36 years. It’s the largest sexual assault verdict in history.”

In 2018, when a jury in Georgia awarded $1 billion to a 20-year-old woman who said she was sexually assaulted by a security guard six years earlier, the woman’s attorney said he believed it was the largest such award to an individual in U.S. history.

In the Lake Elsinore case, the victim alleged in her lawsuit that the abuse began around 1987 and that after she joined the church, the abuse continued in the church sanctuary, parking lot and gymnasium.

According to the civil lawsuit, in 1994, when the girl was 13, she told a church bishop about her accusations and so he organized a meeting with her, him and the parents. “The bishop talked about forgiveness,” the lawsuit says.

The mother, in a court filing, denied the allegation that she knew about the assaults but did nothing to stop them.

The abuse continued, the civil suit says, until the victim told her high school basketball coach. Authorities were called, and the stepfather was arrested. In 1997, he pleaded guilty to one count [FLOODLIT note: it was actually 55 counts] of committing three or more acts of lewd conduct with a child under the age of 14, Superior Court records show.

In that case, the victim was his client, Dordick said.”

Sources
  1. Case claiming LDS negligence after sexual abuse report stays
    view source details | 13 Dec 2022 | Follow Our Courts
  2. $2.3B awarded in sex abuse lawsuit that named Mormon church
    view source details | 27 Apr 2023 | AP News
  3. $2.28 billion award in Lake Elsinore child sex-abuse case could be largest ever
    view source details | 27 Apr 2023 | Los Angeles Daily News
  4. Billions won in case against sexually abusive stepfather; LDS church settles
    view source details | 28 Apr 2023 | Follow Our Courts
Sources excerpts

Mormon Sexual Abuse Map

International map of locations where active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perpetrated or allegedly perpetrated sexual abuse or other sex crimes, or where LDS leaders failed or allegedly failed to help abuse survivors.