Settlement reached in suit alleging Mormons overlooked abuse
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — A civil trial that started in January in West Virginia has ended in an undisclosed settlement in a lawsuit accusing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and local church officials of covering up years of sexual abuse by one man.
Media outlets report the settlement announced Friday by Berkeley County Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes ends a trial that began Jan. 18. Details of the settlement were not made public, and lawyers and officials are barred from discussing the case.
Plaintiffs contended the Mormon Church and others knew about 26-year-old member Christopher Michael Jensen’s sexual abuse convictions and allegations but “did nothing to warn and protect” their children.
The lawsuit was filed in 2013 by plaintiffs who say they were abused by Jensen when they were between the ages of 3 and 12.
Jensen was sentenced in 2013 to 35 to 75 years in prison for sexually abusing two children, ages 3 and 4. Jensen’s father, Chris Jensen, testified in February that no one told him about those allegations until an August 2012 hearing when his son was charged.
Allegations against Christopher Michael Jensen dated back to 2004, when he was arrested at age 13 at his middle school and charged with two felony counts of sexual abuse against two girls, according to court documents. The lawsuit alleged several church members were made aware of abuse incidents multiple times but either did not believe the abused or kept the abuse a secret.
The lawsuit also alleged that abuse continued over the years as no one in the Martinsburg church or his family, which included church leaders, disclosed Jensen’s history of sex offenses.
The church denied the claims. Defendants said Christopher Michael Jensen fooled everyone and repeatedly lied to church officials.
The younger Jensen was excommunicated from the church by the Martinsburg Stake High Council in 2013.