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Ex-Mormon bishop pleads guilty in sexual assaults of two teens

Sexual AssaultReligion and BeliefJustice SystemCrime, Law and Justice

A former Mormon bishop in Riverside County is expected to serve three years in prison for sexually assaulting two teenage girls who attended a Menifee church, prosecutors said.

Todd Mitchell Edwards, 49, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts related to the assault of the teens, ages 16 and 18, as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County district attorney's office. The counts were sexual battery and sexual penetration with a foreign object. 

In addition to the prison time, Edwards will also have to register as a lifetime sex offender as part of the arrangement, prosecutors said.

Edwards, who has been free on $65,000 bond, is scheduled to be sentenced in December.

The assaults happened in November 2006, according to the criminal complaint. He was initially charged with a third count, related to an attempt to dissuade one of the victims from reporting the crime to authorities, but that charge will be dismissed as part of the agreement, prosecutors said.

Edwards held the rank of bishop in the Menifee ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is an unordained and volunteer position. Church officials have said Edwards was removed from that post once they learned of the allegations against him. 

George Kramer, a spokesman for the church, said in a written statement that the church community was "very saddened" by the admission, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported

He said the church has "zero tolerance for any such conduct," adding that "we fully support the legal proceedings surrounding Mr. Edwards' criminal prosecution and subsequent conviction. Our primary concern is for the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of the victims involved." 

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