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The person who disrupted LDS General Conference by shouting ‘stop protecting sexual predators’ goes on trial

The person who disrupted LDS General Conference by shouting ‘stop protecting sexual predators’ goes on trial
Posted at 2:47 PM, Jan 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-13 19:48:47-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Crystal Legionaires, who disrupted a session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' General Conference by shouting "stop protecting sexual predators," has been convicted on a charge of disrupting a meeting.

The verdict came after a bench trial Monday in Salt Lake City's Justice Court, where a judge heard and decided the case. Salt Lake City prosecutors originally charged a misdemeanor, but reduced it ahead of Monday's trial so it had no potential for jail time.

"I don’t think that your message is wrong. I think your timing and your place is inappropriate and also is in violation of the law," Judge Sydney Magid told Legionaires.

The case pitted the right to protest against the right to worship. Legionaires, 25, admitted to the outburst. But Legionaires (who uses "they/them" pronouns) said they were calling attention to a problem within the faith.

"This was my thought, my hope, my prayer that maybe I could do something," Legionaires told reporters outside of court.

During the March 31, 2018 session of General Conference, Legionaires shouted "stop protecting sexual predators" repeatedly as President Dallin H. Oaks, the first counselor in the Church's First Presidency, was inviting newly-called members of the faith's leadership to take their seats on the rostrum.

The comments could be heard in the worldwide broadcast. Legionaires was promptly escorted from the building.

In an interview with FOX 13 at the time, Legionaries said they were upset about the Church’s response to accusations of sexual abuse within its ranks. But the event was considered part of a religious ceremony, testified David Miles, the Church's event coordinator. There is a disclaimer on the back of every ticket given to the public and read about 15 minutes to the start of every conference session.

Non-members of the faith are allowed to attend, he added.

Brenna Pincock, who was seated near Legionaires, testified it was disruptive.

"It just disrupted the reverence of the meeting," she told the judge.

Richard Steadman, who interviewed Legionaires on a podcast, testified that Legionaires said they knew what they were doing and had researched it in advance.

"I needed to say what I thought I needed to say because there were so many individuals who are hurting," Legionaires said, testifying in their own defense.

Legionaires said they had a family member who was abused and accused church leaders of doing nothing about it. Under some tense cross-examination, Legionaires said it was their first time protesting the Latter-day Saint church.

"That had been my first time ever doing such a thing," they testified.

"But you’ve done it since, right?" Salt Lake City prosecutor Paige Williamson asked.

"I did do it since after so many years of conference where I go and see another queer person has killed themselves because they are told that they are evil," Legionaires replied.

"Your honor, I move to strike," Williamson said, cutting Legionaires off. "Nonresponsive."

Defense attorney Greg Skordas argued that Legionaires' outburst didn't disrupt anything. While some may have been startled, the meeting didn't stop.

"There’s no disruption of the events. I know the one witness says, 'Well, it disrupted the spirit,' but that’s not what the law implies," he told the judge.

Williamson argued it did infringe upon Latter-day Saint faithful's First Amendment religious freedom rights.

"The defendant substituted their interests for those trying to worship," she said.

Judge Magid did express some sympathy for the content of Legionaires' shouts, but still found it broke the law. She sentenced Legionaires to a $340 fine, probation and trespassed her from Temple Square for a year.

Legionaires paid the fine just after being convicted, having crowdsourced money for a legal defense. Speaking to reporters, Legionaires said they had no intention of launching a similar protest during General Conference and has urged others not to do it.

"I also wanted to not make conference next place where everyone interrupts just for the lols. I wanted it to be a specific instance, a specific part," Legionaires said, arguing it was necessary.

"All the members of the church need to be aware and need to recognize what’s going on," Legionaires said outside court. "If the law is preventing us from doing what is right, maybe we need to change the law."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it had no comment on the trial.