Deposition of LDS Church president sought in sex abuse lawsuit

SALT LAKE CITY -- The president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being sought for a deposition in a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse involving his daughter and son-in-law.

In a motion filed in federal court, an attorney representing six unnamed plaintiffs is demanding an early deposition of LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson.

"Russell N. Nelson is simply a witness," Craig Vernon, the attorney for the plaintiffs, told FOX 13 on Thursday.

The lawsuit accuses President Nelson's daughter and son-in-law, Brenda and Richard Miles, of participating in the abuse of children in a Bountiful ward in the 1980s. The allegations claim a number of people were involved in the abuse and suggests it was covered up.

The Miles have repeatedly and vigorously denied the accusations. Their attorney, James Jardine, has said the accusations of a "child sex abuse ring" were the product of false memories from a therapist and that police investigated and found nothing. They have asked a judge to throw out the lawsuit.

Jardine has also asked the judge to delay the case until the Utah Supreme Court rules on the issue of statutes of limitations in sexual abuse lawsuits. It's that request that prompted Vernon to take the deposition of President Nelson and Craig Smith, who was the stake president over the Bountiful ward at the time of the allegations.

"We simply don’t know how long that Supreme Court case is going to last," Vernon said. "If the court decides to wait, we don’t have any time frame when our discovery is going to start."

Vernon argued that President Nelson is 94 and, given his age, a delay could impact their case.

"Russell M. Nelson has information that’s relevant. He was there right after this came to light," Vernon said.

Jardine told FOX 13 on Thursday he had no comment on the motion, but would respond to it in court.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also declined to comment, but previously has called accusations of a coverup "baseless and offensive."

This isn't the first time Vernon has attempted to depose LDS Church leaders. He represents a number of clients who have sued the Church alleging abuse. In 2017, he sought to depose then-President Thomas S. Monson as part of a lawsuit by Native American children alleging sexual abuse. A judge threw that out.

He is also pursuing depositions against church officials in McKenna Denson's lawsuit alleging she was raped at the Missionary Training Center in the 1980s.

Vernon told FOX 13 he believes President Nelson's deposition is necessary in this lawsuit.

"Because he’s got relevant information we have a right to take his deposition to find out relevant information to prove our case. Nobody is above the law," Vernon said. "Even though he is the current president of the Church, nobody should be above the law."

Read the filing here (refresh the page if it doesn't immediately load):