22 Sep 2007

It wasn't rape, ex-husband testifies

Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun

September 20, 2007

ST. GEORGE, Utah - Who will the jury believe? That's what it comes down to in the trial of Warren Jeffs, the prophet of the largest polygamous group in North America.

Will they believe Jane Doe, the young woman forced by her mother, stepfather and Jeffs to marry at age 14, who says that within three weeks she was raped by her then-husband, 19-year-old Allen Steed?

Will they believe she'd been told by the prophet -- Jeffs' father -- that she didn't have to go through with the arranged marriage and that Jeffs overruled that? Will they believe she begged Steed not to touch her and told him she hated him?

Or will they believe Steed, who cried as he testified Wednesday that he loved her and would never have hurt her?

If jurors choose Steed, Jeffs -- who was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List -- has to be acquitted of two counts of being an accomplice to rape. If they choose the young woman's version, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints could go to jail for life.

Steed has never been charged with rape and risked incriminating himself by testifying. The marriage was annulled in 2004.

Before the marriage, the now 26-year-old truck driver said he was counselled to "be slow, take a long time, to be kind, considerate and respectful" of her by Doe's stepfather, the FLDS bishop.

Growing up in the reclusive, repressive FLDS society, neither Steed nor the girl -- called Jane Doe to protect her identity -- had any sex education and had never been allowed to date. They believed God determined who was to marry and communicated that to the prophet through revelation.

Doe had earlier testified that her first sexual experience was rape. Steed described the first few months of their religious marriage as "rough and rocky," but he said Doe initiated intercourse.

"I came home. I was putting in long hours at my job and I was really, really tired," the sturdily built, soft spoken Steed said.

"I went to sleep in my work clothes and as the night progressed, she woke me up and asked me if I cared about her and I said I loved her. She rolled up close to me and asked me to scratch her back and one thing led to another."

He found himself "guided to her" and they had sex.

Steed said it happened several months after the wedding, but recanted that on cross-examination after being shown a photo of a trip they made to Canada three weeks after the ceremony. By then, Steed said they'd had intercourse.

Conversations about sex are coded in FLDS communities. "Having children" is one of the code phrases. Steed testified Doe told him she wanted to wait as long as five years before having children. Under cross-examination, he changed that.

"She said maybe a couple of weeks, couple of months or maybe five years," Steed said.

"So you took the earliest date?" prosecutor Craig Barlow asked. "Wouldn't you?"

"Of course I did," Steed replied. "I wanted to have a child. I wanted her to know I loved her. I didn't want her frightened."

"Why was she frightened?" the prosecutor asked.

Steed said he never asked her. Steed said he didn't recall Doe crying or asking him to stop that night, or telling her the prophet wanted them to have children. He didn't recall whether she bled.

Barlow asked if Steed's idea of going slowly was having sex three weeks after marrying a 14-year-old who had no idea how babies were created and had told him she didn't want him touching her?

"It seemed like a long time to me," Steed said.

Did he think her perception might have been different and that he misread her? Barlow asked.

"Yes, that's possible. Me not being able to read her mind. I wasn't very good at communicating."

A few days before they had intercourse, Steed had exposed his genitals to her in a park. They were lying on the grass looking at the stars. There was no physical contact before he got up and exposed himself.

"In my own clumsy way, I tried to make her feel more comfortable to help move things along [sexually]," he said, describing Doe's reaction as "surprised" and "offended."

Was that Steed's idea of "courting his wife?" Barlow asked.

"I felt like sometime we had to learn to get familiar with each other."

Under Barlow's questioning, Steed admitted he doesn't believe state laws such as the marriage age of 16 apply to him and the FLDS -- only God's law applies.

Steed doesn't have a wife now, but said he believes the way to the highest realm of heaven is to have several wives, who Jeffs would have to assign to him.

Jeffs' attorney, Walter Bugden, tried to dispel the perception Steed might lie for Jeffs to accomplish that. In response to a "hypothetical question," Steed replied he would never lie because it would be against God's law.

Jane Blackmore, the midwife for the FLDS community in Bountiful, B.C. for four years, was the final witness called by the prosecution to rebut the defence's case.

Blackmore said Doe was pregnant and one of her patients in the winter of 2002. She was pregnant and had had a previous miscarriage with no medical treatment. She hadn't told her husband about the miscarriage or the pregnancy. She told Blackmore she didn't want a baby or her husband.

"I asked her about abuse and she said she felt she was being forced," Blackmore said. "She said, 'My husband won't take no for an answer.'"

Doe had her second miscarriage in February 2003.

Jurors will begin their deliberations after the attorneys' final statements Friday.



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