The Sins of Brother Curtis
A Story of Betrayal, Conviction, and the Mormon Church
This brilliantly reported, unforgettable true story reveals how one of the most monstrous sexual criminals in the history of the Mormon church preyed on his victims even as he was protected by the church elders who knew of his behavior.
When Seattle attorney Tim Kosnoff agreed to listen to an eighteen-year-old man who claimed to have been molested by his Mormon Sunday school teacher, he had no idea he was embarking on a quest for justice on behalf of multiple victims or that the battle would consume years of his life and pit him against the vast, powerful, and unrepentant Mormon church itself.
As Kosnoff began to investigate the case, he discovered that the Sunday school teacher, a mysterious figure named Frank Curtis, possessed a long and violent prison record before he was welcomed into the church, where he became a respected elder entrusted with the care of prepubescent Mormon boys.
Through Lisa Davis’s deft storytelling, two astonishing narratives unfold. The first shows how Brother Curtis ingratiated himself into the lives of young boys from working-class Mormon families where money was tight, and was accepted by mothers and fathers who saw in him a kindly uncle or grandfather figure who enjoyed the blessing of the church. Having gained the families’ trust, Curtis became fiendishly helpful, offering to supervise trips or overnights out of the sight of parents, when he could manipulate his victims or ply them with alcohol.
The other narrative is a real-life legal thriller. As Davis shows, Kosnoff and his partners tirelessly assembled the case against the church, sifting through records, tracking down victims, and convincing them to testify about Brother Curtis’s acts. What began as a case of one plaintiff turned into a complex web stretching across multiple states. Joined by what would become a team of attorneys and investigators, Kosnoff found himself up against one of the most insular institutions in the United States: the secretive and powerful Mormon church.
The amazing legal case at the heart of The Sins of Brother Curtis shows how the church’s elite, well-funded team of attorneys claimed the church was protected under the Constitution from revealing that Curtis had molested a number of Mormon boys. Yet Kosnoff and his devoted legal team (which included a female investigator adept at getting parents of victims to talk to her) succeeded in forcing the church to reveal that it knew about Curtis and ultimately achieved a successful settlement.
Emotionally powerful page by page, The Sins of Brother Curtis delivers a redemptive reading experience in which the truth, no matter how painful and hidden, is told at last and justice is hard won. This is a remarkable story, all true.
A protracted legal battle to hold the Mormon Church (LDS) responsible for sexual abuse drives investigative reporter Davis's insightful examination of hard-won justice. In 1997, Seattle attorneys Tim Kosnoff and Joel Salmi took on the case of 18-year-old Jeremiah Scott, who, at age 12, was repeatedly abused by Brother Frank Curtis, an elder in Scott's Portland, Ore., Mormon community. When Scott's mother reported the abuse to her Mormon bishop, she was told the church was aware of Curtis's problem. So though Curtis had since died, the Scotts wanted to sue the church for failing to protect Scott. Kosnoff and Salmi soon discovered Curtis's pattern of molestation stretched back decades and across state lines. The abuse itself almost becomes secondary to the vicious pretrial battles between Kosnoff's team and the lawyers for the LDS, who said the church's records were protected by clergy-penitent privilege and the First Amendment freedom-of-religion clause. The $3 million settlement in 2001 brought an end to the case but not the issue, as Davis makes abundantly clear in her well-researched account of systematic abuse and coverup.