Lawyers resist speedy deposition of LDS Church president in lawsuit

SALT LAKE CITY — Attorneys for a couple being sued over decades-old accusations of sexual abuse are urging a federal judge to reject a demand for a speedy deposition of the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In a filing on Friday, attorneys for Brenda and Richard Miles called the motion “aimed at publicity rather than any real litigation need.” They pointed to an interview the plaintiffs’ attorney did with FOX 13 last month about the court filing.

“Plaintiffs recognize their claims of a satanic ritual sex abuse ring in Bountiful in the 1980’s have been long debunked. Plaintiffs apparently perceive value in creating a media spectacle around the fact that Mrs. Miles father, Russell M. Nelson, is the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” wrote attorney Samuel Straight.

Six people, unnamed in court documents, are suing the Miles, accusing them of participating in abuse in a Bountiful LDS Church ward in the 1980s. The Miles — who were originally sued under a pseudonym but chose to disclose their identities — have vigorously denied the accusations. Their attorneys have said the claims are the product of false memories planted by a therapist. The Miles’ attorneys have asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

The Miles’ attorneys have also asked to delay the litigation until the Utah Supreme Court rules in an unrelated case dealing with statutes of limitations in sexual abuse lawsuits. That request prompted the plaintiffs’ attorney, Craig Vernon, to seek “early” depositions of President Nelson and a man who was stake president over that Bountiful ward at the time.

“The only ‘urgency’ behind Plaintiffs’ motion is a recognition that their entire case —and any hope of deposing President Nelson — may be mooted as soon as the Utah Supreme Court rules on the statute of limitations question posed in Mitchell v. Roberts,” Straight wrote in his filing. “That case is fully briefed, with oral arguments presented eight months ago. A ruling is imminent.”

Straight said there is considerable irony in the plaintiffs’ cries of “delay,” with the accusations dating back more than 30 years and a lawsuit filed only last year.

Vernon has argued President Nelson is of advanced age. Straight countered that he is not in bad health.

“The implicit argument appears to be that President Nelson or Mr. Smith may pass away prior to opening of the discovery period. But Plaintiffs offer no evidence that President Nelson or Mr. Smith are in poor health. In fact, it has been widely reported that President Nelson recently completed a world tour — hardly an indication of an impending demise,” he wrote. “Mr. and Mrs. Miles should not be forced to incur the expense and harassment of having their friends and family deposed while their Motion to Dismiss is pending. Plaintiffs’ publicity seeking motion should be denied.”

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