Court Documents Show Local Mormon Leaders Failed to Report the Manufacturing of Child Pornography Following Confession

Ryan McKnight

Ryan McKnight

Published

In early February 2018, a twenty-year-old man named Benjamin Alyk contacted the Davis County Attorney’s Office in Utah and informed them that he was prepared to confess to having manufactured and distributed child pornography when he was 15 and 16 years old. Alyk met with Brent Baggs, Investigator for Davis County, on February 14, 2018, at the office of his attorney, Todd Sessions. 

During this meeting, Alyk confessed to having participated in viewing, manufacturing, and distributing child pornography from the time he was 14 until he was 17. Additionally, he revealed that he confessed to his religious leaders on at least two occasions, including once eight months prior to turning himself in. According to court documents, those leaders “had not made a report to law enforcement.”

The Crime

According to an Affidavit for Search Warrant obtained by The Truth & Transparency Foundation (TTF), Benjamin Alyk confessed to having stumbled across a website that acted as an image-sharing community for pedophiles. Alyk told Investigator Baggs that when he was either 14 or 15 years old the security on the site began to increase and, in order to obtain new material, he would be required to share child pornography in order to receive it in return.

This new security development led him to use a Flip Video camera he received for his birthday to capture videos of two children, 4 and 6 years old, going to the bathroom. He claims he made three videos of them and traded them for child pornography before eventually deleting them from his devices.

Some time later, when he was 15 or 16, he received a GoPro camera for Christmas and discovered that he could control it remotely. He set up the camera to secretly record children who were in the care of his mother in her in-home daycare.

With his hidden camera, Alyk says he filmed four different children, ages 4 to 6, changing in and out of their swimsuits and using the bathroom. He traded these videos online for links to child pornography.

Alyk claims to have stopped viewing child pornography at the age of 17 and transitioned to only viewing pornography with participants who were 18 years and older until the time he left on his Mormon mission in October 2016, just one month shy of his 19th birthday.

Confession to Church Leaders

On June 26, 2016, Alyk received a letter from the Mormon Church, officially The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, calling him to serve a two-year mission in the Dominican Republic. The letter indicated he would report to the church’s Missionary Training Center on October 26, 2016.

Sometime in late November or early December of that year, Alyk arrived to the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo West Mission, then presided over by President James Hunter Nuckols. According to the Affidavit for Search Warrant, Alyk confessed to Nuckols in December 2016, sharing with him the same details discussed with Investigator Braggs. Alyk was immediately sent home to Utah. 

After coming home, Ayk confessed to his local church leaders and ultimately went before a disciplinary council in June of 2017, eight months before turning himself in to authorities. He was living with his parents. Alyk’s parents had closed down the daycare in February 2017, two months after he had arrived home.

In the Mormon Church, a disciplinary council is an ecclesiastical trial where local authorities determine whether or not a member has committed a sin worthy of discipline. Outcomes of disciplinary councils range from formal probation, to disfellowshipment, to excommunication. It is also possible for a disciplinary council to take no action at all.

In the case of Alyk, as a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the disciplinary council would have been before 15 men; the Stake President ,his two counselors, and the 12 members of the local High Council. It is unclear what the outcome of the disciplinary council was for Alyk, but he tells Investigator Braggs that “the Church had not made a report to law enforcement”. This statement is supported by court documents obtained by the TTF, indicating that Alyk turned himself in voluntarily sometime close to February 7, 2018.

In Utah, clergy are not required to report sex abuse to authorities if they are made aware of the abuse through the confession of the perpetrator. Utah State Representative Angela Romero recently announced her intent to propose legislation to remove the clergy exemption. Based on the current law in Utah, and what is currently known about this case, the Mormon Church did not violate the law.

The Mormon Church requires that clergy who are made aware of abuse immediately call an internal helpline where they are given legal guidance on what additional steps should be taken. It is unclear if the helpline was used in this case. Requests for comment from the Mormon Church and their outside counsel, Kirton McConkie, have gone unanswered.

The Daycare

The daycare in question was a legally licensed establishment, owned and operated by Alyk’s mother out of the family home. The earliest known date that the business was formalized with the local government is December 23, 2014, when she applied for and received a DBA from the Utah Secretary of State. It is known, however, from Alyk’s confession, that the daycare was in operation at least as far back as 2011, which is the earliest he admits to having watched one of the children use the bathroom while they attended daycare.

Alyk told Investigator Braggs in February 2018 that, up to that point, his parents “have limited knowledge of the case.” The TTF’s attempts to confirm this with Alyk, his mother, and his attorney Todd Sessions have gone unanswered. If true, Alyk would have had to come home to live with his parents after serving only two months of his mission and gone through a church disciplinary council without his parents knowing the true reason for these events.

According to a document filed with the Utah Secretary of State on April 5, 2017, the DBA registration for the daycare was canceled. Additionally, the parent of one of Alyk’s victims, who agreed to speak to the TTF on the condition of anonymity, says that sometime in January of 2017 they were informed that the daycare would be closing in March of 2017. 

A short time later, they received another notification that the close date would be moved up to February 2017, two months after Alyk came back home to live with his parents and a full year before he ultimately turned himself in. These notifications, according to the source, made no indication that child pornography had been produced in the home or that their child could possibly be a victim.

The victim’s parent says that they were completely unaware of any issues related to illegal activity until being contacted in June 2018 by someone from Davis County. It was then that they were told Alyk had manufactured child pornography in the home and that their child appeared in the videos.

Legal Proceedings

The documents obtained by the TTF show that sometime close to February 7, 2018, Alyk voluntarily turned himself in to the Davis County Attorney’s Office. About seven days later, on February 14, 2018, Alyk met with Investigator Braggs and confessed to manufacturing and distributing child pornography. On April 5, 2018, a search warrant was issued for all of Alyk’s electronics. 

Later that summer, on August 1, 2018, Alyk was charged with eight second degree felonies. Six are for voyeuristic image distribution and two are for sexual exploitation of a minor.

The Davis County Attorney’s Office had it within their discretion to charge Alyk as an adult or a minor. They chose to charge him as a minor. Requests for comment from the Davis County Attorney's Office on what led to that decision have gone unanswered.

According to the Disposition Order, Alyk pleaded guilty to all eight counts on September 6, 2018. During the sentencing, statements were made by the parents of two of the victims, both of Alyk’s parents, and Alyk himself.

The court found that “continuation in the home would be contrary to the welfare of the child and the community” and committed Alyk to secure confinement in the Utah Juvenile Justice System until his 21st birthday, the maximum sentence allowed by juvenile court. However, the sentence came 12 weeks before his 21st birthday and he was promptly released on November 28, 2018.

At the time of this article, Alyk’s entry on Utah’s Sex Offender Registry indicates that he still lives with his parents in the home where the crimes took place.

The TTF will update this story as new information is made available.


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