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Harrisburg, PA - Stake President of 7 LDS Churches, Rhett Hintze, Charged with Failure to Report Child Abuse by Bishop Shawn Cory Gooden

Stake President of 7 Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints Churches, Rhett Hintze, Charged with Failure to Report Bishop Shawn Cory Gooden for Raping Children
Published: February 20, 2024
By: Darla Medina
Last Updated on February 20, 2024

Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints Stake President Charged with Failure to Report Child Sex Assault Allegations against Church Leader

Accordingt to ABC 27, Pennsylvania State Police have filed charges against Rhett Hintze, a lobbyist and "stake president" of seven local Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints churches. Hintze is accused of being aware of child sex assault allegations against Shawn Cory Gooden, a fellow Bishop in Lebanon County LDS church, but failing to report them. The charges were officially filed on Wednesday, December 31, 2023.

Hintze, 50, was expected to turn himself in to the authorities. He has been charged with "failure to report or refer" allegations, which is a third-degree felony in Pennsylvania. Third-degree felonies can carry prison terms of up to seven years in the state. According to police documents, Hintze's role as a church leader made him a "mandated reporter" under Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law.

The allegations involve Shawn Cory Gooden, who held leadership positions within the church's Lebanon ward. Gooden was charged in 2022 in Virginia with sexually assaulting a minor and in 2023 in Pennsylvania with sexually assaulting another minor. The assaults are reported to have occurred between 1997 and 2000 when the victims were between 8 and 12 years old.

State Police revealed one specific sexual assault allegation involving Gooden and a 12-year-old boy at French Creek State Park in 2000.

Police claim that Hintze, who also served as the chief operating officer of the Bravo Group based in Harrisburg (currently on leave), knew about the allegations against Gooden as early as October 2020, while Gooden was a church leader. However, Hintze allegedly failed to report the abuse to authorities. State Police stated that Gooden and the victim had disclosed the sexual assault to Hintze.

In response to the charges, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement through Hintze's attorney, expressing their commitment to preventing abuse and supporting lawful efforts. They argue that the charges brought by local prosecutors for failing to report the abuse are misguided, and they intend to vigorously defend Hintze.

This case highlights the crucial role of mandated reporters in protecting children and the potential legal consequences for failing to fulfill that duty. We will continue to monitor this developing story and provide updates as more information becomes available.

Learn more about the charges against former LDS Bishop Shawn Cory Gooden:

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Interview with Church Abuse Lawyer on Civil Cases Against Church Officials in Abuse Cover-ups

In the wake of the recent charges filed against Rhett Hintze, an LDS stake president, for failing to report child sex assault allegations against a fellow church bishop, questions arise about the legal options available to victims and their families. To dig deeper into this matter, we sat down with Brian Kent, Esq., an experienced church abuse lawyer based in Pennsylvania. In this exclusive interview, Kent provides valuable insights into the pursuit of civil cases against church officials who fail to report sex abuse. Discover the steps victims and their families can take, the damages they may seek, and the crucial role of legal action in seeking justice for survivors of church abuse.

Darla Medina (DM): Thank you for joining us today, Brian. This case highlights a disturbing aspect of church abuse—cover-ups by church officials. In your experience as a child abuse attorney, what can victims and their families do when faced with such a situation and considering a civil case?

Brian Kent, Esq. (BK): Thank you, Darla. It's a critical topic that requires attention. When victims and their families encounter cover-up attempts by church officials, it adds an additional layer of complexity to their pursuit of justice. In such cases, it becomes crucial to gather evidence that supports claims of a cover-up. This may involve obtaining internal documents, witness testimonies, or other evidence that proves the knowledge and complicity of church officials in concealing the abuse. Engaging an experienced church abuse attorney is essential to navigate this complex legal landscape, as they can employ investigative resources and strategies to uncover the truth.

DM: What legal strategies can be employed to hold liable parties accountable in civil cases involving cover-ups?

BK: When faced with a potential church cover-up, victims and their families can employ various legal strategies to hold the liable parties accountable. One approach is to pursue claims of negligence against the church or its officials, arguing that their failure to act and report the abuse amounts to a breach of their duty to protect children in their care. Additionally, victims may also explore claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress or fraud, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

DM: How can victims and their families navigate the emotional and legal challenges that arise when facing a powerful institution like a church?

BK: Facing powerful religious institutions can be incredibly challenging for victims and their families. It's important for them to remember that they are not alone in this fight. Seeking emotional support from therapists, support groups, or survivor networks can provide a crucial source of strength throughout the process. From a legal standpoint, having a compassionate and experienced sex abuse attorney by their side is invaluable.

DM: What advice would you give to victims and their families who may feel discouraged or afraid to come forward due to the influence of the church or the potential consequences they may face?

BK: I understand the fear and apprehension victims and their families may experience when considering coming forward against a powerful institution. My advice would be to remember that the pursuit of justice is their right and that they deserve to be heard. Seeking the support of an attorney who specializes in church abuse cases can provide them with the guidance and protection they need. These attorneys have experience handling sensitive cases and can navigate the legal process while prioritizing the well-being and safety of their clients. It's crucial to remember that their strength and courage can inspire change and help protect others from similar abuses.

DM: Thank you, Mr. Kent, for shedding light on the legal options available to victims and their families in cases of church abuse. We appreciate your insights on this important matter.

BK: My pleasure, Darla. Thank you for having me and for raising awareness about this issue.


ABC 27

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Darla Medina
About Darla Medina
Editor: Darla is a content writer with a focus on the legal field. She covers cases of sexual abuse, drunk driving, and preventable violent crime for the Legal Herald. Contact Darla: This article was fact checked prior to publishing by this author to ensure compliance with our rigorous editorial standards. We will only use authoritative sources. Our values compel us to provide only trustworthy information. If you find an error, please contact us.
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