A former Latter-day Saints bishop is facing criminal charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a teenage boy in his congregation — part of a pattern of “touchy-feely” behavior and inappropriate sexual talk that several boys reported to police.
Jeffrey Byron Head, 54, from Draper, was charged Wednesday with two counts of forcible sexual abuse and two charges of misdemeanor lewdness.
If convicted of the sexual abuse charges, which are second-degree felonies, Head could face a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
Charging documents allege that Head came to a teen’s house unannounced in May 2016, and inappropriately touched the boy after asking to see the boy’s genitals after the youth had surgery.
Months later, Head took that same boy out for milkshakes, charging documents allege. There, he removed the boy’s shirt, rubbed his shoulders and placed his hand on the boy’s thighs near his genitals. Head also spoke to the youth about masturbation at that outing.
Another teen boy told investigators that Head talked to him about masturbation “all the time,” often seeking details about whether the boy became aroused while kissing girls.
The teen said that Head once locked him inside a car while sitting in the youth’s driveway so they could discuss sex.
“We have to figure this masturbation thing out,” Head allegedly told the teen. “You’re not leaving until we figure this out.”
The boy later told police that he stayed in the car because Head was a family friend and a church leader he was supposed to look up to and thought Head “would be angry” if he tried to run away.
A third boy also reported to investigators that Head was awkward and “really touchy-feely,” and that the church leader gave him shoulder rubs, hand rubs and grabbed his thighs.
Head’s attorney, Greg Skordas, said he’s been working on the case since the allegations surfaced last month, but has yet to see any police reports or evidence.
“We were surprised that he was charged,” he said. “There is a huge disparity between what the state is alleging and what we believe actually occurred.”
Eric Hawkins, church spokesman, confirmed Thursday in an email that Head was a bishop in Draper, but said he was “immediately removed from any position in the church” after church leaders became aware of the allegations. He said the church also took steps to notify authorities and supported their investigation.
“Abuse of any kind cannot be tolerated in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he said in a statement. “Anyone who engages in such behavior is rightfully subject to criminal prosecution and will also face discipline from the church, including loss of church membership.”
Head is expected to make his first court appearance Friday.