Forcible abuse of minors, witness tampering charges filed against former Mapleton bishop

Erik Wayne Hughes. Photo: Utah County Jail

PROVO, Utah, July 9, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — Formal charges now have been filed against a former Mapleton bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who stands accused of two counts of forcible sexual abuse against minors and one count of witness tampering.

Erik Wayne Hughes, 51, on Friday was charged in Fourth District Court with the two second-degree felony charges and one third-degree felony charge.

According to a probable cause statement by the Mapleton police officer who investigated the case, the first count of forcible sexual abuse charges stems from two or more incidents that reportedly happened in or near June 2014.

The statement alleges that Hughes repeatedly touched the penis of a then-17-year-old boy in order to gain sexual gratification.¬†Hughes served as a bishop of the boy’s LDS ward, so was trusted by the teen, the probable cause statement indicated. The alleged victim is now 21.

The second count of forcible sexual abuse stems from incidents alleged to have happened more recently, but also involved a 17-year-old boy who was a member of the ward Hughes led as bishop. That boy is now 18.

The witness-tampering charge was filed after Hughes reportedly contacted the 21-year-old after learning charges had been or might be filed. According to the probable cause statement, Hughes instructed that alleged victim on what to say to investigators so that Hughes could avoid prosecution.

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Hughes was booked into the Utah County Jail last month on suspicion of close to two dozen felony charges involving the two alleged victims. The men told investigators they were molested over a period of years by Hughes, and on several occasions were drugged with spiked drinks or pills. In one case, an alleged victim said he came to and found Hughes touching him in a sexual manner.

Eric Hawkins, spokesperson for the LDS Church, last month provided Gephardt Daily with the following statement:

“There is zero tolerance for abuse of any kind in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When local leaders first learned about this matter, they immediately reported it to law enforcement. We have supported and cooperated fully with the law enforcement investigation. This individual has been removed from any position within the church.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims. We will continue to reach out to them and their families to provide support and love.”

Judge Thomas Low has been assigned to the case. As of Sunday, Hughes remained in the Utah County Jail in lieu of $25,000 cash-only bail.

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