BISBEE — The Cochise County Superior Court is a public place, but not all proceedings or cases that go before judges are open or available for inspection.
Certain cases are sealed for different reasons, said Amy Hunley, Cochise County’s Clerk of the Superior Court.
Usually, one of the attorneys on a case — either defense or prosecution — may file a motion requesting that a case be sealed, Hunley said. The decision is left up to the judge.
Matters going before the grand jury, however, are always closed to the public, by law. Once the grand jury indicts someone, then the charges and the case become public.
Currently, an attorney well known in Arizona’s legal community, as well as in the country, is representing a matter before the grand jury at the old courthouse in Bisbee.
That lawyer, Paul K. Charlton, is a former United States Attorney for the District of Arizona who was appointed to that post by former President George W. Bush in 2001.
For the last several years, Charlton has been a partner in a high-powered law firm in Phoenix billed as one of the largest in the world and one that handles particularly “white collar and government investigations practice, representing Fortune 500 companies and corporate executives in high-profile complex litigation, internal investigations and white-collar criminal defense matters.”
An online description of Charlton’s work at the Dentons law firm — “The world’s 5th-largest law firm by revenue, with $2.9B gross revenue in fiscal year 2019” — states: “In the white-collar arena, Paul has successfully defended international corporations and high-net-worth individuals who were the target of government investigations. Clients seek out Paul’s representation for his proven track record in obtaining declinations and because the best outcomes are those in which his clients are never charged and their identities never publicly disclosed.”
Recently, Charlton’s name appeared on Cochise County Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson’s calendar for a motions hearing at the courthouse. Charlton’s name appears as the defense attorney. But the identity of his defendant is not disclosed. The case number for this calendar entry is GJ21-0072.
When the Herald/Review inquired who the defendant in the case is, the newspaper was told that the defendant’s identity is not public.
But based on information obtained by the newspaper, an order signed by Dickerson on Nov. 29 shows that the grand jury matter that includes Charlton is linked to a complex and controversial civil case before the court.
The civil case has been put on hold until Dickerson issues a ruling on a motion pending in the grand jury case.
The civil case is a lawsuit against the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Utah corporation sole; the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Utah corporation sole; Lenzer Medical Services LLC, an Arizona limited liability company; and a DR. JOHN.
The lawsuit accuses leaders of the Mormon Church’s Bisbee ward and others linked to it of remaining quiet while one of their former members brutally abused his children for seven years. The member, Paul Adams, a former Border Patrol agent, had confessed his acts to church clergy and they failed to report it to the authorities, said Tucson attorney Lynne Cadigan, who filed the lawsuit in late 2020.
Cadigan’s suit against the church and others, is summed up in the opening paragraph of the complaint: “This case involves horrible sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children between the ages of six (6) weeks and twelve (12) years old that went on for seven (7) years. The biological father of these victims made videos of his rapes and now these videos are everywhere on the world wide web. The perpetrator admitted his abuse and crimes to his Mormon Church, and received counseling for his crimes. The Mormon Church leaders knew about the abuse and yet no one reported these crimes to the authorities. The Mormon Church leaders gave guidance and care to these children for seven (7) years, sat next to them in Church and allowed these vicious crimes to continue.”
Cadigan recently said church leaders are trying to claim clergy privilege as a defense.
“Counseling is not the same thing as listening to a confession,” Cadigan said. “The family doctor never reported it either. The law says you must report.”
Additionally, because of the allegations hurled against the Mormon Church concerning Adams, the church has been under investigation by the Cochise County Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal charges are warranted. Charges have not yet been filed. Adams committed suicide in his jail cell in Florence while awaiting trial.
A hearing had been set for Dec. 1 in the civil lawsuit in front of Cochise County Superior Court Judge Laura Cardinal. That hearing was postponed indefinitely, according to Dickerson’s Nov. 29 order.
That order says: “Pursuant to the order entered in GJ21-0072, It is ordered that the hearing on discovery disputes set in this matter on Dec. 1, 2021, in Division One of this Court is continued to a to-be-determined date after the Court rules on a motion pending in case number GJ21-0072. It is in the interest of judicial efficiency and justice to resolve the Grand Jury issue before Division One hears the discovery dispute. Division One will be notified when it may reset its hearing.”
While Dickerson’s order links the grand jury matter to the civil suit against the Mormon Church, it’s unknown exactly who Charlton is representing. Several emails and telephone calls to Charlton by the Herald/Review were unanswered.
Meanwhile, the hearing on the civil suit that was supposed to be heard by Cardinal in December has not been rescheduled, court officials said.
When the Herald/Review inquired whether Dickerson’s ruling on the grand jury matter would be made public, the judge’s judicial administrative assistant said it would not.