Sexual Abuse by a LDS Church Counselor

The LDS church is exceptionally cautious by requiring any person in a leadership role such as a teacher, counselor, or scout leader to be “two deep” to prevent any allegations of inappropriate conduct such as sexual abuse. Unfortunately, leaders acting on their own outside of, or after church activities aren’t always monitored as closely. Just last month, an LDS Church counselor was sentenced to serve time in prison for having a sexual relationship with a teenage boy he’d met previously at a church camp.

EFY counselor

benmckune

benmckune

29 year old Keldon S. Cook from Farmington Utah was sentenced on November 30th 2015 for multiple charges stemming from a sexual relationship he had with a teenager. Cook met the 14 year old youth while he was one of many EFY counselors for an event sponsored by the LDS church. After their initial introductions at the EFY event, Cook communicated with the teen through texting and IMing for the duration of two years. Following the electronic communications, which the teen stated to be quite inappropriate, the adult church counselor arranged a meeting with the boy and sexual conduct ensued. Cook was originally charged with multiple charges such as forcible sodomy and forcible sexual abuse but took a plea deal, reducing the charges to four 3rd degree felonies instead, three of which were unlawful sexual conduct with a 16 or 17 year old.

Age makes a difference

When the sexual abuse began between Cook and the teen, the youth was 16 years old. Although the sexual acts that took place were not legal, the older age of the youth saved Cook many years behind bars. When it comes to charges related to children, the younger the age of the victim, the harsher the penalties will be for the defendant. Charges are known to be drastically higher when the victim for sexual abuse is under the age of 14. This may be due the fact that older teenagers are known as being somewhat capable of making their own decisions where younger teens or prepubescent children are not. In the case of Keldon S. Cook, if the sexual abuse had started earlier when the teen was younger, the charges against Cook could’ve landed him in prison for life.

Position of trust

Photo by: Randen Pederson

Photo by: Randen Pederson

Not only can a victim’s younger age increase charges for a defendant, but so can age along with the defendant’s role in the victim’s life. When sexual abuse occurs with a child under the age of 14 and the adult is in a position of trust such as a church counselor, it is then considered aggravated sexual abuse. According to Utah Code 76-5-401.1, “Position of trust means:

• An adoptive parent;
• An athletic manager who is an adult;
• An aunt
• A babysitter
• A coach
• A cohabitant of a parent if the cohabitant is an adult;
• A counselor;
• A doctor or physician;
• An employer;
• A foster parent;
• A grandparent;
• A legal guardian;
• A natural parent
• A recreational leader who is an adult;
• A religious leader;
• A sibling or a stepsibling who is an adult;
• A scout leader who is an adult;
• A stepparent;
• A teacher of any other person employed by or volunteering at a public or private elementary school or secondary school, and who is 18 years of age or older;
• An uncle;
• A youth leader who is an adult; or
• Any person in a position of authority, […] which enables the person to exercise undue influence over the child.”

Aggravated sexual abuse

Unlike sexual abuse which is a 2nd degree felony, aggravated sexual abuse of a child such as sexual abuse by a person of trust is a 1st degree felony, punishable by 15 years to life in prison. Those in positions where they work with children need to be cautious about never being alone with a child and following any rules and guidelines in place to protect both child and adult. Any adult who is facing true or even fraudulent charges of any sexual abuse should speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Strict Probation for Utah Sex Offenders

Sex offenders in Utah are required to abide by a strict probationary program until their name is removed from the sex offender registry.

Ten years to life

Photo by: West Midlands Police

Photo by: West Midlands Police

Regardless of the severity of the offense, those who make the registry of sex offenders can expect to stay on that list for at least ten years. The Utah Department of Corrections states that those persons who are convicted of the following crimes will be on the registry of sex offenders for ten years after they are done with their jail or prison time:

“1. Kidnapping
2. Voyeurism
3. Unlawful Sexual Activity with a Minor
4. Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a 16 or 17 Year Old
5. Forcible Sexual Abuse
6. Incest
7. Lewdness (4 convictions required for registration)
8. Sexual Battery (4 convictions required for registration)
9. Lewdness Involving a Child
10. Aggravated Human Trafficking
11. Custodial Sexual Relations (if victim was under 18 years of age)
12. Sexual Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult
13. Sexual abuse of a minor
14. Attempting, soliciting, or conspiring to commit any felony offense listed above (or in the “life” list below)”

Those found guilty of any crimes on this subsequent list, or those convicted more than once for any crimes on the above list, will be on the registry for sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

“1. Child Kidnapping
2. Aggravated Kidnapping
3. Enticing a Minor over the Internet
4. Rape
5. Rape of a Child
6. Object Rape
7. Object Rape of a Child
8. Forcible Sodomy
9. Sodomy on a Child
10. Sexual Abuse of a Child or Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child
11. Aggravated Sexual Assault
12. Sexual Exploitation of a Minor [child pornography]
13. Aggravated Exploitation of Prostitution”

According to this second list, after their sentencing is over, a person who was caught with child pornography is treated the same as someone convicted of rape of a child. While these two crimes seem hardly comparable to many, why does it matter if their name is registered? What does being on the sex offender registry entail?

More than a list of names

Photo by: micadew

Photo by: micadew

When someone is on the registry of sex offenders in Utah, not only is their name exposed for anyone looking through public records, they also have strict laws that they must follow as long as their name is on the registry, even for a lifetime. These laws include restricting:

Where they live. If sex offenders which to move, they must first get permission. This includes moving residences within the same city.
Where they work. Their choice of employment must also be approved by a parole officer.
Public places they frequent. Those convicted of offenses against minors may not be in any area where children meet. This can include: schools, parks, public pools, and even family get togethers.
Who they have contact with. The most obvious restriction regarding who sex offenders have contact with is the victims and their families. Additionally, those convicted of sexual offenses against children may not have contact with minors under the age of 18. This can include children of significant others.
Even how late at night they are allowed out in public. According to the UDC, when required, “[they] must enter into and successfully complete established progressive curfews, or electronic monitoring where available.”

Some of these restrictions can be altered slightly but only after a parole officer has given written permission.

Life changing

Being registered as a sex offender can dramatically change the way a person lives for the rest of their lives. Just as someone is on probation or parole, everything that sex offenders do and everywhere they go is restricted and documented. In fact, according to the UDC, “sex offenders are supervised even more closely and held to higher standards [than those facing probation and parole for other charges].” For those individuals who are facing charges of sexual offenses that could place them on the registry of sex offenders, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Sexual Abuse in the Medical Field

Those in the medical field such as doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists spend a lot of time hands-on with their patients, but taking an examination too far can quickly evolve to charges of sexual abuse.

Chiropractor accused of groping female patients

Photo by: Alisha Vargas

Photo by: Alisha Vargas

A Utah chiropractor was charged on Monday with sexual abuse of his female clients. 56 year old Dale Heath has had a Utah license to practice chiropractic care since May of 1995. Starting just a few years ago in 2011, Allegations began to surface against Heath for inappropriately touching female clients around their groin area.

Probation fail

Following an investigation into the sexual abuse allegations, Heath was put on probation in September of 2014. The probation came with an agreement that his female clients must always be accompanied by a chaperone and that Heath must discuss the medical details prior to any contact near a female’s groin area. These stipulations were in place for less than 6 months when another alleged victim of sexual abuse came forward.

Should the chaperone be at fault?

With more allegations surfacing, investigators interviewed Heath and those who were supposed to be a second person in the room when he was attending female patients. They discovered that the chaperones had been fraudulently signing the logs without actually being present with Heath and the patient. Those responsible for being a chaperone let not only the patient down, but also the chiropractor for whom they were to be observing. Since Heath was unaccompanied with his patients, it is unknown what his motives were. Those chaperones failed to be present, and now the only evidence the authorities have is the word of the patient.

Sexual abuse or legitimate technique

A high majority of the population feels uncomfortable going to any type of professional in the medical field. When the medical professional’s job is very hands-on such as: a chiropractor, physical therapist, masseuse, or gynecologist; this can make the patient even more uneasy. Often, examinations and treatments can feel invasive, when they are not intended to be. One of these “invasive” techniques is known as Internal Pelvic Floor Work. This invasive therapy is performed by physical therapists and chiropractors just like Heath. As the name states, the work (or adjustment) is done in the pelvic region. It can be helpful with patients that suffer with urinary problems, women’s health issues, and even prostate problems for men. While it is not documented that consent for an invasive technique was given to Heath, the probability for gray areas are existent regarding sexual abuse in the medical field.

Prevention for sexual abuse in the medical field

There’s a fine line between what is okay and what is not for medical professionals. To protect the patient from sexual abuse and the medical practitioner from false allegations, there are steps to help prevent uncertainty or uncomfortable situations.

• Just like the scout rule of “two deep”, a medical practitioner should always be accompanied by a nurse or assistant if a patient comes to the appointment without their own chaperone.

• Communication between doctor and patient. The doctor should always inform his patients of the medical examination or procedure before any physical contact. It is also important for patients to let the medical professional know if they feel uncomfortable, instead of waiting to report it as sexual abuse later.

• Routine psycho-sexual evaluations should be performed on all medical professionals to help prevent sexual abuse before it begins.

• Other doctors practicing in the same clinic or office should be legally obligated to report any suspicious behavior of one of their colleagues since they would know what a routine examination is and what crosses the line.

Although sexual abuse in the medical field is fairly uncommon, with the majority of cases against those in the mental health area, those practicing any medicine should safeguard their practice against allegations of sexual abuse of other misconduct. For those facing charges, counsel with a criminal defense attorney is recommended.