CHARLESTON – The trial against officials of the Mormon Church that was set to begin Jan. 9 has been moved.
The trial will now begin Jan. 17. Berkeley Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes changed the date at a pre-trial hearing that was held Jan. 8.
The pre-trial hearing lasted nearly five hours. Wilkes moved the trial date back because the trial will require a pool of 100 potential jurors. The trial is expected to last a minimum of six to eight weeks.
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2013 by parents of children between the ages of 3 and 12 who claimed they were sexually abused by Christopher Michael Jensen, the son of two officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The plaintiffs claimed the defendants covered up Jensen’s sexual abuse.
In 2013, Jensen was sentenced to 35 to 75 years in prison for sexually abusing two minors. Jensen was found guilty for sexually abusing a 3-year-old and 4-year-old.
The lawsuit alleges the church and its leaders of actively covered up the abuse and assisted Jensen in committing further acts by enabling him to babysit for and live with other church families with young children.
Jensen was initially accused of sexually abusing young children in 2004 when he was 13 years old and lived in Utah at the time. He was arrested at his middle school and charged with two felony counts of sexual abuse for pinning two 12- and 13-year-old females against a wall and fondling them.
The late Circuit Judge John Yoder ruled to exclude evidence from the case and dismiss the claim of conspiracy before the lawsuit went to trial in 2015. The ruling was appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, who reversed Yoder’s ruling and remanded the case back to state court on June 14.
The nine minors and their parents brought suit against the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Corporation of The Presiding Bishop of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints, Steven Grow, Don Fishel, Christopher Michael Jensen, Christopher Jensen, Sandralee Jensen and Unnamed Defendant-1 alleging negligence claims, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery and civil conspiracy related to, arise from and resulting in Jensen’s known and alleged sexual abuse of the minor plaintiffs.
Jane Doe-1, individually and as parent, guardian and next friend of minors J.T. and W.T.; John Doe-1; Jane Doe-2, individually and as parent, guardian, and next friend of minors Z.W. and A.W.; Jane Doe-3, individually and as parent, guardian, and next friend of C.H., a minor; John Doe-3; Jane Doe-4, individually and as parent, guardian, and next Friend of A.B., a minor; Jane Doe-5, individually and as parent, guardian, and next friend of minors T.S. and M.S.; John Doe-5; Jane Doe-6, individually and as parent, guardian, and next friend of P.C., a minor; and John Doe-6, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, allege that a conspiracy began in Utah when the church influenced Christopher Michael Jensen’s criminal proceeding, which resulted in the two felony charges being reduced to misdemeanor sexual offenses.
The plaintiffs claim that although the church knew that Christopher Michael Jensen had pled guilty to two sex offenses in Utah, it did nothing to warn or protect, despite the existence of an abuse “prevention and response” procedure.
In 2005, the Jensen family moved to Martinsburg and Sandralee Jensen was asked to serve as the church’s Relief Society President for her new ward, which she accepted.
By April 2007, through her role as Relief Society President, Sandralee Jensen was arranging for Christopher Michael Jensen to babysit children of ward families and there was no disclosure concerning Christopher Michael Jensen’s prior sex offenses in Utah by the Jensens or the church defendants.
The plaintiffs alleged their children were abused by Christopher Michael Jensen.
Berkeley Circuit Court case number: 13-C-656