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Sexual abuse lawsuit against Mormon church on hold

By BRADY McCOMBSAugust 19, 2019
FILE - In this April 5, 2018, file photo, McKenna Denson speaks with reporters during a news conference in Salt Lake City. A lawsuit by Denson who accused The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of covering for a former missionary leader who she says raped her in the 1980s is on hold as she tries to find a new attorney. Denson said Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, during a telephonic hearing that she's been unable to find a law firm to take her case since her previous attorney, Craig Vernon, withdrew in May. Denson says some firms are "intimated" by the religion. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
FILE - In this April 5, 2018, file photo, McKenna Denson speaks with reporters during a news conference in Salt Lake City. A lawsuit by Denson who accused The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of covering for a former missionary leader who she says raped her in the 1980s is on hold as she tries to find a new attorney. Denson said Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, during a telephonic hearing that she's been unable to find a law firm to take her case since her previous attorney, Craig Vernon, withdrew in May. Denson says some firms are "intimated" by the religion. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A lawsuit by a woman who accused The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of covering for a former missionary leader who she says raped her in the 1980s is on hold as she tries to find a new attorney.

McKenna Denson said Monday during a telephone court hearing that she’s been unable to find a law firm to take her case since her previous attorney, Craig Vernon, withdrew in May.

Denson said three firms are reviewing her case now but that it’s been hard to find attorney because some firms are “intimidated” by the religion.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead gave Denson six more weeks to find a lawyer. Church attorneys didn’t object.

Denson, of Pueblo, Colorado, thanked Judge Pead for more time, saying she doesn’t want to represent herself.

“That would be foolish on my part,” Denson said.

It’s unknown why Vernon dropped the case because his court motion is sealed and he didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

Denson of Pueblo, Colorado, accused Phoenix-area resident Joseph L. Bishop of sexually abusing and raping her in 1984 at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah where he was president.

A judge previously dismissed part of Denson’s lawsuit against the church because the statute of limitations had passed, but allowed a fraud claim to stand because the alleged cover-up was discovered recently.

All the claims were dismissed against Bishop who denied the accusations but acknowledged in a police interview that he asked the woman to expose herself when she was 21, according to police documents.

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