A former Farmington therapist and founder of a Utah-based life-coaching practice, who was charged in Davis County this week with assaulting a vulnerable patient to rid her of “demons,” is also facing professional sanctions.
Maurice Harker, 54, is accused of forcing the female patient to the ground, dragging her on the floor, covering her nose and mouth so she couldn’t breathe, slamming her against his office door and not allowing her to leave the room, according to charging documents filed Tuesday in 2nd District Court.
He is also accused of encouraging the patient to watch pornography to get rid of the demon he claimed possessed her, telling her he needed to “teach” her about sex, and creating an online dating profile for her, where he would pose as the patient to talk to suitors, the charging documents state.
The Utah Division of Professional Licensing entered a notice of agency action against Harker in January after the patient initially accused Harker of the behavior. Around that time, licensing attorneys also entered a petition to revoke Harker’s license, according to documents provided to The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday.
While the DOPL notice was issued months ago, information about the action doesn’t appear the agency’s website, which states Harker has “no disciplinary actions.” An agency spokesperson said that action notices are public documents, but they aren’t posted until after a licensing issue has been adjudicated, or a professional surrenders their license.
The manhandling described in both the charging documents and the action notice was meant to exorcize a literal demon — demon “713″ — Harker said was inside the patient, the records state. Prosecutors say Harker restrained the patient using techniques he learned as a high school wrestler, and the women suffered a broken thumb, black eyes, a knee injury and a neck injury so severe she “thought she may die.”
After the sessions, Harker would lie on top of the woman and “comfort her,” licensing documents allege.
The patient saw Harker from 2012 to May 2021 to treat her post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health disorders related to abuse she experienced as a child.
“The defendant preyed upon her vulnerabilities, asserting that physically and mentally aggressive harmful techniques were necessary in treating her demon disorder,” according to charging documents.
Harker is facing one felony count each of kidnapping and aggravated assault of a vulnerable adult.
“The defendant, over time, attempted to isolate the victim from other people and relationships as he knew her secret, that she was possessed by a demon (as he had led her to believe),” charging documents state. “As a result, she was reliant on him for emotional support and communication.”
He also referred to his relationship with the woman as a “friendship,” not a “therapeutic relationship,” even though Harker billed her for “psychotherapy sessions,” according to the petition to revoke Harker’s license.
When DOPL investigators interviewed Harker, he “admitted that he lacked the training and expertise” to effectively treat the patient’s conditions and said he never formally assessed her, provided a treatment plan or took notes during their sessions, the petition stated.
Harker’s attorney, Greg Skordas, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Salt Lake Tribune. When reached Thursday, the Division of Professional Licensing provided The Tribune with the notice of agency action and the petition to revoke his license.
The agency spokesperson said Harker allowed his license as a clinical mental health counselor to expire in September 2022. When a license expires, an individual can choose to reapply later, which is why DOPL sometimes takes action against people without active licenses.
“Essentially, we pursue their residual rights,” the spokesperson said.
Harker’s license lapsed days before Rolling Stone published a piece about him in October 2022 that outlined allegations of abuse from former patients, who told the magazine they were sent to Harker on the recommendation of their Latter-day Saint bishops for help with trauma and pornography addictions.
While he is no longer licensed, Harker is still listed on the Life Changing Services website as the organization’s owner and co-founder, and as a “Marriage Repair Specialist” who coaches weekly training sessions.
“He continues to work, on special arrangement, with individuals and couples working to repair and rebuild traumatized marriages, as a consultant,” the website stated as of Friday.
Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said his office initially declined to file charges against Harker, because the allegations didn’t meet the legal framework of the charge investigators first presented. Prosecutors later reconsidered after further investigation and used a different section of Utah code to file charges.
“The defendant has not been convicted of any crime, is presumed innocent,” Rawlings said, “and we ask the public to honor that presumption unless that changes through the court process.”
Records show court dates have not yet been scheduled in the criminal case. Harker’s licensing case is slated to go before the state’s Clinical Mental Health Counselor Licensing Board on Dec. 7.