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Abuse Guardians
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Harrisburg, PA – Shawn Cory Gooden, a former scout leader and bishop with the Church of Latter-Day Saints, was sentenced for child rape in Virginia and is now facing new charges in Pennsylvania. Gooden pleaded guilty in July 2023 after an extensive investigation by the Prince William County police department revealed that he sexually assaulted two relatives multiple times between January 1997 and December 2000 when the victims were between the ages of nine and 13 years old.

Shawn Cory Gooden: LDS Church Bishop and Boy Scout Leader

Gooden held several positions of authority until his arrest in September 2022. He served as a bishop with the Church of Latter-Day Saints and was a member of the executive board for the New Birth of Freedom Boy Scouts organization. Public records from these organizations confirm his involvement. Gooden also worked as a lawyer at Weber Gallagher and Thomas, Thomas & Hafer, LLP in Harrisburg. However, the law firm stated that he was no longer employed there as of August 2021, more than a year before his arrest.

Gooden’s LinkedIn profile listed him as an Adjunct Professor at Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg. However, due to his recent sentencing, this information is no longer accurate. Notably, a presentation he gave to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry remains on the state’s official website.

LDS Bishop Pleads Guilty To Raping Two Children in VA

On Friday, November 17, 2023, Gooden was sentenced in Prince William Circuit Court. During the investigation, authorities discovered that Gooden had also sexually assaulted another young relative between the ages of eight and 12 years old during the same timeframe as the first assault. He will serve a minimum of 2.5 years in prison, followed by at least 5 years of supervised probation upon release. Furthermore, he has been registered as a sex offender, according to court documents.

Bishop Gooden Facing New Sexual Assault Charges in PA

Despite the sentencing in Virginia, Gooden now faces 19 charges related to the rape of three children under the age of 13 in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The offenses allegedly occurred on April 21, 2000. Gooden was arraigned on these charges on September 13, 2023. His status hearing is scheduled before Judge Thomas G. Parisi on December 20, 2023.

LDS Stake President, Hintze, Charged With Failing to Report Abuse

Rhett Hintze, a lobbyist and “stake president” of seven area Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints churches, has also been implicated in the case. Pennsylvania State Police have charged Hintze with failing to report or refer child sex assault allegations against a church leader in Lebanon County. Hintze, who is expected to turn himself in, faces a third-degree felony charge, which can carry a prison term of up to seven years in Pennsylvania.

Felony Charges Against Hintze

According to police documents, Hintze, in his church leadership role, was considered a “mandated reporter” under Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law. Police claim that Hintze was aware of the allegations against Gooden as early as October 2020, while Gooden was still a church leader, but he failed to report the abuse to authorities, a third-degree felony.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Respond

In response to these developments, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement expressing sadness for the victims and emphasizing its commitment to addressing incidents of abuse. The church stated that it actively works to prevent abuse, trains its leaders, and supports their lawful efforts. The church plans to vigorously defend Hintze against the charges of failing to report the abuse.

Civil Cases Amid Church Abuse Cover-Ups

In the wake of disturbing cases involving church officials attempting to cover up abuse by fellow church bishops, the pursuit of justice becomes paramount for victims and their families. To shed light on the legal options available in civil cases against liable parties, we turn to child abuse lawyer Brian Kent, Esq. In this insightful interview conducted by attorney Laurence Banville, Kent delves into the process of pursuing justice, potential legal avenues, and the importance of holding responsible parties accountable. Join us as we explore the path towards justice in the face of church abuse cover-ups.

Laurence Banville (LB): Thank you for being here, Brian. We’d like to discuss the options available to victims and their families when church officials attempt to cover up abuse by a fellow church bishop. Can you shed some light on this?

Brian Kent (BK): Thank you, Laurence. It’s my pleasure to be here and address this critical issue. When victims and their families find themselves in situations where church officials try to cover up abuse, pursuing a civil case against the liable parties becomes crucial. It offers a pathway to justice and compensation for the harm suffered.

LB: Absolutely, Brian. Could you explain the process of pursuing a civil case in such circumstances?

BK: Certainly, Laurence. In cases involving church abuse cover-ups, it’s essential to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in child abuse litigation. They can guide victims and their families through the legal process. The attorney will investigate the facts, gather evidence, and identify liable parties, including not only the individual abuser but also those who participated in the cover-up.

LB: That’s a crucial distinction, Brian. What are the potential legal avenues victims can pursue in these civil cases?

BK: Victims and their families can explore various legal avenues, depending on the circumstances. One option is to file a negligence claim against the church, arguing that they failed in their duty to protect the victim from harm. In some cases, a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress may be appropriate, given the deliberate cover-up. Additionally, if there is evidence of a conspiracy or ongoing institutional negligence, a claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) may be applicable.

LB: Those are important considerations, Brian. What can victims and their families hope to achieve through a civil case?

BK: Pursuing a civil case against those responsible for the abuse and cover-up can serve multiple purposes. First and foremost, it provides victims and their families with a platform to seek justice and hold the liable parties accountable. It can also lead to financial compensation, which can help cover medical expenses, therapy costs, and other damages resulting from the abuse. Importantly, civil cases can also shed light on systemic failures within the institution, potentially prompting necessary changes and preventing future abuses.

LB: Thank you for sharing those insights, Brian. Finally, what else should victims and their families need to understand when in these challenging situations?

BK: It is necessary to reach out to an attorney who specializes in church abuse cases as soon as possible. They can provide guidance, support, and legal representation throughout the process. It’s crucial to document any evidence, including emails, letters, or other communications that might reveal attempts to cover up the abuse. Remember, you are not alone, and there are legal avenues available to seek justice and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

LB: Thank you, Brian, for your valuable input and expertise. Victims and their families must be aware of their rights and options when confronting cases of church abuse. We appreciate your time today.

BK: Thank you, Laurence. It’s been a pleasure discussing this important topic, and I hope our conversation can provide some guidance and support to those who need it most.

Seeking Justice Starts Here: Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one have been affected by church abuse and find yourselves facing church officials who ignore your allegations, remember that you do not have to face this journey alone. Our team of experienced attorneys is here to support you. We offer a free consultation to discuss your case, answer your questions, and provide guidance on the legal options available to seek justice and compensation. Remember, seeking justice starts with taking the first step. Contact us today for a confidential and compassionate consultation.

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