|No Charges for Church Member
By Joseph Serna
March 21, 2009
Due to a lack of evidence, criminal investigators are not filing charges against a Newport Beach Mormon church member accused of molesting a boy in the congregation, according to prosecutors.
Newport Beach and Costa Mesa police investigated Todd C. Summers, 37, of Costa Mesa, for accusations that he had carried on a sexual relationship with a boy in the church. Newport Beach police determined that any potential crimes occurred in Costa Mesa, Sgt. Evan Sailor said. Costa Mesa detectives investigated the claims and turned over their findings to prosecutors, who declined to file charges.
Summers, a former Sheriff's Department reserve officer, was also investigated by the department on allegations that he used his authority to enter a young boy's home, he said in a deposition. Charges were not filed in that case. Summers and the department severed ties last year, said department spokesman Jim Amormino.
It's all simply a case of stonewalling authorities, according to Vince Finaldi, the attorney representing the plaintiff in a civil suit against Summers. Finaldi's client is accusing Summers of molesting him for nearly a decade, starting when the boy was 11 or 12 years old. The plaintiff, referred to in the lawsuit as John Doe, is seven years younger than Summers.
Summers was never charged because he refused to cooperate with Costa Mesa detectives and the Mormon church hid behind its lawyers, hindering any investigation, Finaldi said.
Summers' lawyer did not return calls for comment.
The plaintiff sued Summers, his parents and leaders of the Mormon church in April 2008. While Summers is the only one accused of carrying on the improper relationship, the man maintains that Summers' parents and church leaders enabled the relationship to continue.
Summers runs TCS Video in Costa Mesa, a videography company that lists many organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America and the school district as its client.
Robert Crockett, attorney for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said no one had ever complained about Summers before his accuser came forward in 2007. Church leaders never noticed anything inappropriate about Summers' behavior.
The man's claims are spelled out in his sworn deposition. He told attorneys Summers' parents should have known of the relationship because Summers would put his fingers in his mouth, would lie in bed with him and take him to his room and lock the door. The man claims that Summers would lock the door, turn on pornography then orally copulate the boy, who was a teenager at the time. Summers' accuser said the abuse continued until he was 20 or 21 years old because Summers had an inexplicable "hold" over him.
When the man did approach church leaders in 2007 with his claims, about seven years after the alleged incidents, the investigation was laughable, Finaldi said. He pointed to a top church official's explanation of how he investigated the claim:
"When I met with Todd in, I guess it was January, and discussed the things that had been brought up...at that point in time I had to make a determination of whether I felt I needed to proceed with acting upon this, believing that I needed to proceed," said Weatherford Clayton, president of the Newport Beach stake of the Mormon church in a deposition.
"And as I asked him questions carefully and when I heard his answers — and I did my best with my experience and with trying to feel what the Spirit is telling me — I thought I could believe him...so, at that point in time, there was no reason to start a file" of a complaint, Clayton said.
Clayton told Finaldi that the church's instructions for leaders is to call a hotline number, not authorities, when sexual molestation complaints come up. This was the first time he ever had to call it, Clayton said.
"The point of the abuse line is to help us go through and do the right things with the authorities. We have lawyers there and I know now it's with [his lawyer's] firm. When the contact goes through, it goes to Kirton & McConkie," he said. "They help us know how to navigate those waters."
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