Seventy-eight-year-old Carl Matthew Johnson was sentenced Thursday on four counts of sexual abuse of a child stemming from his plea deal in January. The judge gave him nine years to life for three first-degree felonies and one to 15 years for a second-degree felony, all to run consecutively.
Behind-the-scenes conversations between legislative leaders and what Senate President Stuart Adams said was “a broad base of religious groups” helped thwart four separate proposals to add clergy to the list of professionals required to report child sexual abuse.
An Associated Press review finds that over the past two decades, more than 130 bills have been proposed in state legislatures to create or amend child sex abuse reporting laws. After intense opposition from religious groups, the clergy privilege remained unchanged.
Investigators say Carl Matthew Johnson acknowledged the abuse. They say he was in a position of trust over the victims but aren't saying if the alleged abuse occurred while he was a bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Records from a log of calls fielded by a law firm representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a church official deposition show that Republican State Rep. Merrill F. Nelson took the initial call from a bishop reporting that church member Paul Adams had sexually abused his daughters.
Inappropriate contact between children and staff members has happened with some frequency in Utah’s teen treatment programs. From November 2018 through July 2021 — state regulators have investigated at least 20 reports of staff pushing the boundaries with clients, sometimes amounting to sexual abuse.