Update March 21st: Read HERE to find out why no criminal charges were ever filed against Todd Summers.
On March 16th, 2009, the Costa Mesa (CA) Daily Pilot reports that a man identified only as John Doe has filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court seeking unspecified redress for alleged sexual abuse at the hands of a former youth leader.
Named in the suit:
-- Todd C. Summers, a 37-year-old resident of Costa Mesa who was John Doe's roller hockey coach and a member of the LDS Church.
-- Todd Summers' parents, who supposedly should have been knowledgable about Summers' behavior.
-- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Allegations: In a civil complaint filed in February 2009 and amended from a previous one in April 2008, "John Doe" claims Todd C. Summers, 37, of Costa Mesa, molested him when he was between 12 and 18 years old and attended the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Newport Beach. Starting in 1990, Summers allegedly befriended the boy and his parents while he was the boy’s roller hockey coach. Summers and the boy’s parents worked to bring him into the LDS Church. Years of "vicious abuse" began and continued until the boy became an adult. One reason offered for the delay in litigation is because Summers allegedly threatened to kill John Does if he told anyone, at one point even putting a gun in the boy’s mouth tpo demonstrate what might happen. John Doe is being represented by attorney Vince Finaldi.
In addition, Summers allegedly showed pornography to John Doe, performed fellation on him, and videotaped the encounters, although according to a recently-filed separate motion, Summers is accused of destroying the videotapes. The abuse, which ceased in 1999 when John Doe turned 18, allegedly took place on church grounds, on Catalina Island, in San Diego County and in Summers’ business.
The LDS Church is named in the suit because it was supposedly "obvious" that Summers had an unusual affection for children, thus the church incurred a responsibility to keep Summers away from children.
Summers' parents are named in the suit because they are high-ranking members of the church, and should have seen the “red flags” about his behavior, even though according to the math, the abuse occurred after Summers turned 18 and became an emancipated adult, at which time his parents' legal authority over Summers would have ceased.
Summers and LDS Church representatives have not commented on the suit so far. Summers runs TCS Video and Photography in Newport Beach, and has been hired by a wide range of organizations and groups to photograph and videotape their events. In addition, Summers was an Orange County Sheriff’s Department reserve officer from 1996 to 2008; Finaldi claims the April 2008 suit is the reason why Summers is no longer a reserve officer. It has not been reported whether or not John Doe ever sought redress through the criminal justice system; in a similar case involving Markeisha Kite in Chicago, Kite had earlier sought redress through the criminal justice system as well, but charges were never preferred.
The CM Press has not picked up on this story yet, but it is a quality blog discussing political issues applicable to the Costa Mesa-Newport Beach area since 2006. Worth the read.
The LDS Church most recently reiterated its policy on sexual abuse in November 2005. Simply put, it's zero tolerance. Members who believe they have been abused must alert their bishop or branch president. The bishop then counsels them and cooperates fully with law enforcement. Upon substantiation, the abuser is generally excommunicated from the Church, but without exception if its a child who is abused. If the excommunicant returns, a permanent annotation is placed in the individual's membership record to alert future ward leaders not to call the individual to a position involving unsupervised contact with children. The fact that the policy hasn't always been enforced doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
Analysis: Summers' parents should be able to get severed from the lawsuit, since it is improbable that they can be held responsible for the actions of a child after the child reaches the age of 18.
The question is whether or not the Church can also get severed from the lawsuit. Does the law dealing with the statute of limitations applies to the church as well as the alleged perpetrator. Because of a quirk in the law, the statute of limitations does not date back to the act itself, but dates back to three years after someone first "remembers" the act. The flip side is that it can render a person or the system hostage to someone's memory, which can easily be flawed. The controversial "recovered memory therapy" can easily implant false memories in people.
The fact that John Doe waited ten years after the last occurrence to litigate should weaken his case. Victims need to be encouraged to seek justice sooner. The fact that the memory may be "too painful" is no excuse not to seek justice expeditiously.