BOISE – As many as 15 church members who knew several months before authorities did that a Boise police officer had molested children will face no criminal charges for failing to report the crimes, Idaho authorities say.
The Ada County Sheriff’s Office says members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are protected by Idaho’s clergy privilege law.
Police said Stephen R. Young confessed his crimes to church officials in January, but the crimes didn’t become public until March. Young attended an LDS church in Eagle.
An attorney for the church said efforts by church leaders resulted in Young’s crimes coming to the attention of authorities.
“From the moment Mr. Young confessed, church leaders took every precaution they legally could to protect victims and the public,” attorney Randy Austin told the Idaho Statesman in a story published Sunday. “And church leaders avoided violating the clergy privilege – a breach which could have tainted the evidence against Mr. Young and jeopardized his prosecution.”
Court records say Young admitted molesting four children, ages 1 month to 21 months, between 2005 and 2008. He initially was charged with four counts of lewd conduct with a minor but later pleaded guilty to one count of sexual battery of a child.
Young was sentenced in September to 25 years in prison, but he can ask for parole after 12 years.
Young, 59, was a Boise police officer from 1978 until he retired in February and was a school resource officer from 1995 to 2005.
According to court records and a journal kept by his wife, Young in August 2009 told his wife about his crimes and moved out of the family’s Eagle home.
In January, Young confessed his crimes to church officials, and, Austin said, church officials urged Young and his wife to tell police. Austin said making that recommendation was all clergy members could legally do.
“From the outset (church leaders) strongly encouraged Mr. Young and his wife to go to the police as quickly as possible,” Austin said.
Investigators and church officials said LDS members who knew about Young’s confessions initiated an internal disciplinary process against him.
Sheriff’s reports say Boise police Officer Kyle Christensen was a member of that process. But they say an LDS official asked him not to be involved in a hearing involving Young because, as a police officer, he was duty-bound to report crimes, but as a member of the High Council, he had to keep whatever he heard secret.
Police say the LDS official did not tell Christensen who was involved in the disciplinary hearing.
However, a week later, in early spring, Christensen learned Young had been excommunicated and called Young to offer his support. Young then admitted to Christensen that he had molested small children and said he didn’t have the courage to turn himself in.
Christensen reported the conversation to higher-ranking police officials, who told Christensen to tell Young to turn himself in or a criminal investigation would be started.
Young agreed to go with Christensen to turn himself in on March 2, according to Ada County sheriff’s arrest reports, two days after Young abruptly retired from the police department.
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