Warren Jeffs has been the head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christs of Latter Day Saints since 2002. The evidence in his trial looks like an episode of Big Love on HBO. Jeff's defense attorney's argued that the prosecution of a polygamous sect leader was religious persecution. Nevertheless, the jury convicted him as an accomplice to rape for forcing a 14-year-old to marry her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. Warren Jeffs can now be sentenced from five years to life for each of the two felony charges of accomplice to rape. The victim told reporters,"this trial has not been about religion or a vendetta. It was simply about child abuse and preventing abuse." The woman is now 21. A former member of the community is interviewed in a CNN Headline News report linked here.
Followers of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints consider Jeffs as a prophet. He allegedly performed the ceremony and forced the girl into marriage despite her objections. Jurors also agreed that Jeffs rejected the girl's pleas to be released from the marriage when she complained about relations with her husband.
The jury deliberated for 16 hours over three days. On Tuesday a juror was replaced with an alternate for undisclosed reasons. The victim is now 21 years old. Her former husband, Allen Steed is 26 years old. He testified that his bride was the one to first initiate sex. The alleged victim disagreed, claiming that they were married at least a month before they had intercourse and then it was because her husband told her, it was "time for you to be a wife and do your duty." Afterward, she claimed that she went into the bathroom and took two bottles of over-the-counter pain reliever. "The only thing I wanted to do was die," she said.
Under Utah law, a 14-year-old can consent to sex in some circumstances. But sex is not considered consensual if a person under 18 is enticed by someone at least three years older. Steed was not charged with a crime.
The couple was granted an FLDS divorce (a release) in 2004 when the victim became pregnant with another man's child. (She has since left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faith. ) Members of the FLDS practice polygamy in marriages arranged by the church prophet. Polygamy was not on trial here! Polygamy was abandoned by mainstream Mormons as condition of statehood in 1890. The Mormon church excommunicates known polygamists. The Mormon church disavows any connection with the estimated 30,000 self-described Mormon fundamentalist who continue to practice polygamy.
In Arizona, Jeffs is charged with eight felonies for being an accomplice to incest and sexual misconduct with minors in connection with marriages involving two underage girls. Jeffs is also under federal indictment in Utah for fleeing to avoid prosecution.