26 Feb 2011

Rape charge dropped in plea deal for FLDS man who married 14 year old cousin, pleads guilty to lesser charges



Salt Lake Tribune - Utah February 18, 2011

FLDS member pleads guilty in sex case


By Makr Havnes & Lindsay Whitehurst  |  Salt Lake Tribune


St. George --  For former teenage bride Elissa Wall, Friday marked “the end of a long and difficult journey.”

About three years ago, polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs was convicted of rape as an accomplice for presiding over then-14-year-old Wall’s 2001 marriage to her 19-year-old cousin. On Friday, her former husband, Allen Steed, agreed to a plea deal that ended a felony rape case against him.

“Allen was a product of his environment,” said Wall, now 24 and a mother herself. “I hope the chain of systematic abuse can end and many can be spared.”

Steed, 29, pleaded guilty to solemnization of a prohibited marriage and pleaded no contest to unlawful sexual activity with a minor, both third-degree felonies.

Fifth District Judge G. Rand Beacham sentenced Steed to 30 days in jail beginning Monday for the first charge and three years of probation on the sexual activity charge, which will be stricken from his record if he successfully completes his probation.

Steed did not speak about the plea, but outside the St. George courthouse, his attorney, Jim Bradshaw, said he believed the resolution is fair.

“There comes a point in time when it is in the best interest of all parties involved to bring to resolution,” he said.

Wall grew up in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, one of 22 children her father had with three wives, she wrote in her 2008 book, Stolen Innocence. [see Books page on this site] When her parents’ union deteriorated, her mother was “reassigned” in 1999 to Fred Jessop, the sect’s bishop. Wall was stunned and objected when Jessop told her she was to be married.

Wall wrote that she was miserable in the relationship, abused and raped by Steed. The marriage ended after she met her now-husband, Lamont Barlow, in 2003, and had an affair with him.

Prosecutors filed charges against Jeffs three years later. During Jeffs’ 2007 trial, Steed testified that Wall initiated the sexual contact, and their subsequent encounters were consensual. He was charged with rape the day after Jeffs was found guilty.

Cases of solemnization of a prohibited marriage are rare, said Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap. “This is the first time we’ve ever prosecuted it,” he said. Adopted in 2001, the charge generally applies to people who perform illegal marriages of minors. Because Steed participated in the crime, he can also be charged, Belnap said.

Belnap said the plea agreement with Steed was the “right thing to do,” and exhibits a fair balance between “mercy and justice.” The plea, he said, recognizes the control Jeffs had over Steed. “Sometimes Justice has to remove her blindfold to distinguish between the unfortunate and the vicious,” he said, repeating a favorite quote.

Jeffs’ conviction, meanwhile, was overturned in July. The Utah Supreme Court ruled the jury should have been instructed that Jeffs knew when he performed the marriage that a rape would happen and told to focus on his role as a religious leader. Jeffs, 55, has been extradited to Texas, where he is awaiting trial on bigamy and sexual assault charges. Belnap said he wants to see how those charges play out before deciding whether to retry Jeffs.

Walls’ civil suit against Jeffs, the FLDS church and the sect’s communal land trust is ongoing.

“The best decision has been made,” Wall said. “I can walk away now, but with a lifelong burden of scars.”


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Daily Mail - UK February 18, 2011

Polygamist follower of Warren Jeffs gets just 30 days jail for marrying his 14-year-old cousin

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER



A follower of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs will serve only 30 days in jail for marrying his 14-year-old cousin.

Allen Glade Steed had a rape charge dropped in exchange for pleading guilty in Utah to participating in an illegal marriage and unlawful sexual intercourse.

Jeffs conducted the 'spiritual marriage' of Steed, then 19-years-old, to his teen cousin Elissa Wall in 2001in a seedy motel in the remote Nevada desert.



Married in a motel: Allen Glade Steed and Elissa wall who was just 14 when she went through a marriage ceremony to a man she says she 'despised'



Teen bride: Elissa Wall was told to obey the church and her husband but felt it 'wasn't right' to be married at 14

Each charge at Salt Lake City's Fifth District Court carried a penalty of up to five years in prison. But Steed, 29, will serve three years of probation and pay two $5,000 fines.

Facing charges: Polygamy cult leader Warren Jeffs who has been extradited to Texas

Steed's plea in abeyance to the charge of unlawful sex with a minor, means the charge will eventually be dismissed if he complies with all the terms of his probation.

A lawyer for Wall, who remarried and is now a 24-year-old mother-of-two, said she was satisfied with the reduced charges.

In her book Stolen Innocence, she told how 55-year-old Jeffs forced her to marry and ordered her to obey the church and her new husband.

The couple were members of his Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

She recalled: 'Deep down inside, I knew it wasn't right. I didn't want to be married at 14.'

During a meeting in the church hall, she learned her husband-to-be was her cousin whom she said she despised.

She added: 'I remember he walked over and I got this really sick feeling in my stomach. Something in me just rose up and I really resisted.'

For years, Wall said she kept quiet and endured the sexual assaults. She was unable to turn to her mother, sisters or anyone else for help, as no one would dare defy Jeffs' will.

The couple were finally granted a church divorce - known as a release - in 2004, after she became pregnant with another man's child.

Steed remains a member of the church and has not remarried.

Jeffs was sentenced to two consecutive prison terms of five years to life in prison on two counts of accomplice to rape for presiding over the marriage.

His conviction was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court in July of 2010 on the grounds that a jury instruction focused the jury on Jeffs' relationship with Wall rather than Steed's relationship with the girl.



Happy: Elissa Wall today with her husband Lamont Bartow, a former follower of Warren Jeffs' church, and their two children


Cult castle: The Yearning for Zion compound in Texas owned by Warren Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

The trial court made a mistake in refusing to instruct the jury that Jeffs could not be found guilty as an accomplice to rape unless Jeffs specifically intended for Steed to have non-consensual sex with Wall.

Jeffs has since been extradited to Texas to face various charges.

A 2008 raid, over 400 children and teenagers were taken into care from his Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado, Texas, amid widespread allegations of child abuse at the sect.


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2 comments:

  1. Former child bride says decriminalizing polygamy may help end abuse

    by Ben Winslow, Fox13 Now June 7, 2013,

    SALT LAKE CITY — An increasing number of people are leaving polygamous communities after grappling with edicts and abuses, non-profit groups who deal with Utah’s fundamentalist communities said Friday.

    When they leave the closed societies, they often step out into a strange, new world — with few resources.

    “Living polygamy is a challenging lifestyle. Leaving polygamy is challenging,” said Shelli Mecham, a coordinator for the Safety Net Committee, a coalition of government workers, social service groups, activists, current and former members of fundamentalist groups created to provide resources to abuse victims within polygamous communities.

    The group, supported by the Family Support Center, hosted a conference on Friday for social workers, therapists and other government officials to get education on how to deal with people facing abuse and other problems inside an isolated society. Ex-members of some of the polygamous groups shared their stories of enduring years of abuse and finding the strength to leave.

    Tonia Tewell, the director of the non-profit group Holding Out Help, said she has seen a steady increase in people leaving the Fundamentalist LDS Church on the Utah-Arizona border. She said it is because of increasingly bizarre edicts being put down by imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.

    “Warren is probably more in charge today than he’s ever been. He’s going to go down as a martyr,” she told FOX 13. “He hasn’t officially died but he’s definitely more powerful today than ever.”

    Jeffs is serving a life-plus-20 year sentence in a Texas prison for child sex assault. Tewell said the steady exodus of people choosing to leave or getting kicked out is straining her group’s resources.

    “Once you’re kicked out, you lose your family, you lose your friends, you lose your entire support structure, your religion, you leave with the clothes on your back and if you’re lucky, your children,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

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  2. In an interview with FOX 13 on Friday, the star witness in the criminal prosecution against Jeffs suggested decriminalizing polygamy may help break the cycle of abuse.

    “I think it would possibly create some interesting solutions to problems,” said Elissa Wall. “And it would allow for people who choose to live that way to come out in the open and begin to have a generational impact on people (being) educated.”

    Wall was 14 when she was forced to marry her cousin in a ceremony presided over by Jeffs. She testified against him in a case that led to his conviction on a charge of rape as an accomplice. Jeffs’ conviction was later overturned by the Utah Supreme Court.

    “Polygamy is the big blanket that covers up the child abuse, no education, spousal abuse, physical abuse, mental, all of these different things…,” Wall said Friday.
    In the years since Jeffs was convicted, Wall has been outspoken about the abuses inside polygamy, including child-bride marriages. She said she continues to work with people who live plural marriage and those who have chosen to leave the lifestyle. Wall said her focus now is not polygamy itself, but stopping abuse and stopping children from being harmed.

    She said decriminalization of polygamy may create an environment of “informed consent,” where people would choose whether to live the lifestyle, ending generations of secrecy.

    “If it was decriminalized, and you gave women and men the choice, you would create a much more healthy environment for both the community itself but also for the people living it,” Wall told FOX 13. “Because people could come in and out if they chose to. More than anything, my personal belief is that creating that foundation for a healthy polygamous lifestyle is the only way we’re going to impact the youth. It’s the only way we’re going to protect them.”

    Some of those who still live — and believe — in the principle of plural marriage insist decriminalization would allow people to freely report potential abuse without fear of the entire family being prosecuted.

    “People are scared to come forward because they’re scared of the prosecution and so that does kind of, in some instances, keep people from letting authorities know about some potential abuse,” said a woman named Leslie, a self-identified fundamentalist Mormon.

    Heidi Foster, a member of the Davis County Cooperative Society, said outreach efforts like the Safety Net Committee can only do so much if people still fear the entire family will be prosecuted.

    “We want to contribute to society. We want to be friends with our neighbors. Until we are not considered felons, we don’t really feel like we have the opportunity to serve our community the way we want to,” she said.

    The Utah Attorney General’s Office has had a longstanding policy not to prosecute polygamy itself because of religious freedom issues. But prosecutors have charged bigamy in concert with other crimes, such as abuse and fraud.

    The attorney general’s office has said decriminalization is something that polygamists should take up with their lawmakers. Some polygamists have recently lobbied the Utah State Legislature in an effort to get them to consider the idea.

    http://fox13now.com/2013/06/07/former-child-bride-says-decriminalizing-polygamy-may-help-end-abuse/

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