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Trial set for West Valley City pastor accused of failing to report child sex abuse

Published March 25, 2013 9:26 pm

Courts • Church split into two factions, fell into discord after Filimone Havili Mone's removal as pastor.
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The former pastor of the Tongan United Methodist Church in West Valley City was ordered Monday to stand trial on charges of failing to promptly report that young boys had been sexually abused by an older boy in the congregation.

Filimone Havili Mone, 60, is scheduled to stand trial before Judge Brendan McCullagh in West Valley Justice Court on May 29.

Mone's case is set for a bench trial, meaning the prosecution and defense will make their arguments to the judge rather than before a jury. The judge will also decide whether or not Mone is guilty of failure to report abuse of a child, a class B misdemeanor for which the former pastor could spend up to six months in jail.

According to court documents, Mone learned that young boys in his congregation had been sexually abused by an older boy several years ago, but did nothing about it.

This ultimately led to his removal as pastor by the national leaders of the United Methodist Church (UMC) for violating church policy that requires any allegations of abuse be reported.

Since Mone's departure, the West Valley congregation — about 600 people — has split into two factions: the Methodists and the Wesleyan Tongans.

In recent months, the two groups have turned on each other.

West Valley City police have reported being called to the church, 1553 W. Crystal Ave. (2590 South), nearly a dozen times to keep the peace during Sunday services. A fraud investigation is ongoing and at least one brawl has broken out in the parking lot between the family of the now-16-year-old abuser and one of his alleged victim's families.

In December, a civil suit was filed in 3rd District Court over access to the church's money and property — the Wesleyans sued to prevent their former Methodist congregants from access to church funds, typically used for upkeep of church property.

Attorney Hutch Fale has said the national UMC leadership knows the congregation is dissatisfied but has taken no steps to attempt to repair the breach.


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