Legal Pub opines many reasons to be thankful this holiday season. Begin by being thankful you are not part of the Utah T.V. reality show that has dominated a lot of news time. The blow up of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Jeff, Steed, Wall soap oprah has forever changed many lives, starting with Jeff's. The polygamous-sect leader, Warren Jeffs, 51, was convicted this fall of two counts of "rape as an accomplice" because he arranged the marriage of a 14-year-old follower and her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. Jeffs has now been sentenced to two consecutive terms of five years to life in prison. A Utah parole board will ultimately decide how long he actually stays in jail but an average sentence for sex related crimes is around seven years. The parole boards first opportunity to review the length of actual incarceration will be in 2010.
As head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Jeffs often participated in arranging polygamist marriages that sometimes involved placing young girls with older men. Prosecutors claimed Jeffs enticed Elissa Wall (ABC photo above) into marriage and sex against her will saying that the relationship was commanded by God.
A 14-year-old can consent to sex if it is consensual and the other partner three years older.
Wall, now 21, testified that Jeffs failed to help her when she protested the marriage and when she later asked for a divorce from Allen Steed (now 26). Steed claims it was Wall who initiated sex and denied that she had cried during their wedding. Wall had the right to receive $5,000 in restitution from Jeffs but she declined the compensation. Judge James Shumate presided over the hearing.
Jeffs has been quoted from his jail cell as saying that he had not been worthy of the "priesthood" for decades. Allen Steed was charged with rape and his case remains pending. Walls is hitting the media circuit speaking out against cults and offering support to victims. Seems that all of those involved have been touched by this apparent tragedy originally masked in the holy bliss known as matrimony.