Geoff Liesik, Deseret News
DUCHESNE — A judge dismissed all charges Thursday against an LDS bishop accused of telling a teenage girl not to seek a protective order and failing to report the girl's disclosure that she had been sexually abused by a teenage relative.
Bishop Gordon Moon was charged in 8th District Court last August with witness tampering, a third-degree felony, and failure to report abuse, a class B misdemeanor.
On Thursday, Judge Lyle Anderson dismissed those charges in the middle of a hearing at the request of Duchesne County Attorney Stephen Foote. The prosecutor's request came after Moon testified under oath that he should have handled his interview with the girl differently and should have contacted a legal hotline operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The decision to dismiss surprised Moon and his attorney.
"In 20 years of practicing law, I've never seen it operate like this," defense attorney David Leavitt said after court.
"Bishop Moon has maintained all along that he broke no law and that he's innocent," Leavitt added. "Today we're grateful the state finally agreed with us."
Moon has never denied that he should have "been more tactful" during the interview or that he should have contacted the church's legal hotline, his attorney said. "That never seemed to satisfy the state before, but today, for whatever reason, they decided to dismiss the charges."
Moon, 43, was accused of failing to notify police about a 17-year-old girl's disclosure that she had been sexually abused by a teenage relative. The bishop also told the girl not to seek a protective order against the teenage boy and the boy's mother when the girl came to him for counsel, according to Duchesne County prosecutors.
The girl's father, a member of Moon's congregation, told investigators he asked the bishop to meet with his daughter in his ecclesiastical role because she had disclosed an incident of sexual abuse, court records state. The disclosure was causing conflict between family members, the man told investigators.
During her interview with a sheriff's investigator, the girl said she told the bishop she wanted to obtain a protective order against her abuser and his mother so she wouldn't be "terrorized," according to the interview transcript. The teen boy was no longer living in the community, however, and Moon questioned whether a protective order was necessary, the girl said.
"And then he said that I need to think about what (the boy) is going through, and I don't need to start telling the cops or anything because he's already going to have to go through a bunch of repentance and all that stuff," the girl told the investigator.
In past hearings, Leavitt argued that the girl never clearly told Moon she had been sexually abused. She only told the bishop that "something had happened" between herself and the boy, the defense attorney said.
He also pointed out that his client was at least the sixth person to know about the abuse before police were contacted, but he was the only person charged with a crime.
Prosecutors said Moon was charged because he was "the only one who did something to try to prevent" the girl from going to the authorities.
"If we didn't have enough evidence to prosecute, I never would have filed the case to begin with," Foote said Thursday.
The decision to dismiss the charges was based on what Foote characterized as Moon's "admission in a public forum" that he'd mishandled the girl's disclosure of abuse. That was the most important thing to the girl and her family, he said.
"We didn't dismiss the charges because he didn't do anything wrong. We dismissed the charges because he accepted responsibility for what he did wrong," Foote said. "That's why the charges went away."
- Many Mormon missionaries who return home...
- Rare snowstorm traps I-15 motorists overnight...
- About Utah: After 72 years, Keith Hottinger...
- Legal analysis supports Utah's law on getting...
- The pipes are calling: Salt Lake Methodist...
- 'Delusions' make condemned killer Ron...
- Ute Tribe sues Wasatch County over...
- Drunk driver crashes through West Valley...
- Many Mormon missionaries who return... 108
- Federal website fixes allowing more... 44
- As winter takes hold, needs increase... 29
- Legal analysis supports Utah's law on... 28
- Utahns react to death of Nelson Mandela 27
- Expelling Santa from school? Holiday... 16
- Martin MacNeill cuts self with razor in... 15
- Former Attorney General John Swallow... 13