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A few years ago Timothy Samuel Johnson admitted to his wife, Kristine Johnson, that he molested an underage girl. After that, the couple went to their local Mormon temple in order to confess his sin to Church leaders. Church leaders told the police about the case and the cops quickly arrested Johnson.
Johnson, 47, was arrested in 2017 on charges of first-degree sodomy, sexual abuse and unlawful sexual penetration for sexually abusing a girl under the age of 16. He later pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree sexual abuse and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Now, two years after Johnson was arrested, his wife, Kristine, is suing a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints of breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and interference with prospective economic advantage. Four of his children are also named as plaintiffs.
The man’s confession was meant to be confidential, said the family’s attorney Bill Brandt. He said local clergy’s actions “totally violated church policy.”
“It’s been devasting on the family,” Brandt said. “They lost a husband and a father.”
Church leaders’ actions deprived Johnson’s wife and children of his companionship, society, love and income, according to the lawsuit.
“(Clergy) knew or should have known that violating the doctrine of confidentiality under the circumstances alleged in this complaint would most certainly injure (his wife and children) financially,” Brandt said.
The lawsuit asks for $5.5 million for the wife, $1 million per child, and $40,000 in legal fees to make up for the family’s lost income now that Timothy Samuel Johnson is behind bars. The lawsuit says that leaders failed to tell Johnson that they would later report his actions to local law enforcement because Oregon is one of only 28 states where church leaders are considered mandatory reporters.
The couple’s fifth child — who was molested by Timothy Johnson over a four-year span beginning when she was a preteen, according to court records — was not listed in the filing, The Oregonian reports.
The law, however, exempts clergy if they learned of the alleged abuse through “privileged” communication. But Kristine Johnson’s attorney claims the lay clergy member who reported the abuse is also a pharmacist, making it unclear how the state’s mandatory reporter law will impact the filing, The Oregonian reports.
On Thursday, church spokesman Eric Hawkins responded with the following statement:
"Protecting victims and ensuring proper reporting is a top priority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church teaches that leaders and members should fulfill all legal obligations to report abuse to civil authorities ... We are grateful for the efforts of law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate and pursue justice for those who were abused."