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Jeffs given two consecutive 5-to-life terms for rape as accomplice

Published November 20, 2007 3:21 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Posted: 7:32 PM- ST. GEORGE - A Utah judge on Tuesday ordered Warren S. Jeffs to serve two prison terms back-to-back, saying the polygamous sect leader knew it was illegal when he married a 14-year-old girl to her cousin.

Fifth District Judge James L. Shumate called it "poetic justice" that Jeffs had been arrested in Nevada, the same state where the 2001 marriage between Elissa Wall and Allen G. Steed took place.



Jeffs was convicted in September on two counts of rape as an accomplice based on his failure to intervene when Wall objected to the marriage and to having sex with her husband.

The charges are each punishable by a term of five years to life in prison. Shumate ordered that Jeffs be credited with the 15 months he has already served since his arrest in August 2005.

Defense attorney Walter F. Bugden asked that Jeffs remain at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane for a week while an appeal is prepared.

Shumate refused and ordered that Jeffs be transported immediately to the Utah State Prison in Draper.

Outside the court, Bugden vowed to press ahead with an appeal.

"It's the wrong charge, he never should have faced this charge, it's unfair," said Bugden, adding that Jeffs' support of arranged marriages led to his conviction. "Mr. Jeffs encouraging this couple to stay together when they had marital difficulties does not constitute accomplice to rape."

Bugden said the trial should have been moved out of Washington County.

Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, appeared pale and thinner than at his last hearing. He did not acknowledge the dozen or so sect members in the courtroom.

The 51-year-old polygamist conferred quietly with his attorneys as the hearing began. When Shumate asked if he wanted to make a statement, Jeffs answered quietly: "Not at this time."

He was whisked out of the courtroom immediately by bailiffs when the hearing ended.

At the state prison, Jeffs will be kept in maximum security initially while he is evaluated, said Jack Ford, prison spokesman.

Jeffs will receive an automatic hearing before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole in 2010.

Bugden had asked the judge to set Jeffs' sentences to run concurrently, arguing his conduct did not constitute a egregious crime.

Jeffs had no idea Steed was forcing his wife to have sex and "was just being a religious counselor the same way any minister would be," Bugden said.

Deputy County Attorney Ryan Shaum asked the judge to "incapacitate" Jeffs by making his sentences consecutive, thus deterring him from harming anyone else.

Wall went through a "long, long period of suffering that continues today," Shaum said.

When Wall sought help from Jeffs, his response was to chide and scold her, Shaum said, and send her back to her husband.

"That in itself screams for consecutive sentences," he said.

No religious leader should be allowed to send a 14-year-old girl into an unwanted marriage and expect to "hide behind your position," Shaum said. "The general public needs to know this will not be tolerated by anyone."

So far, Jeffs has shown no remorse for his actions and even maintained his innocence to a caseworker who prepared a presentence report for the court, Shaum said.

"It is impossible to figure out whether or not rehabilitation at this time is even possible," he said.

Shaum said Jeffs had shown contempt for the state laws, while calling on followers to be strong and take hits from the state.

"Well, it's Mr. Jeffs turn to take the hit without flinching," Shaum said.

Wall spoke briefly, telling the judge she hoped "some good can come from all of this."

Shumate praised Wall and offered to make Jeffs pay for her to receive counseling.

"You live under a life sentence," he said. "Your courage in carrying on is laudable, but you don't have to do it alone."

She declined, saying, "My restitution is knowing I spoke the truth and that you and the justice system have done your job."

Flora Jessop, who left the FLDS community when she was 16, said after the sentencing it was a "good day" and that thousands of children would sleep safer with Jeffs in prison. But, she said, sending Jeffs to prison would likely not stop the community's marriage practices.

"They already have a new leader," she said.

Shumate also rejected a state motion that Jeffs be required to pay $111,247.01 for extra security provided during his trial, saying the request was unconstitutional.

Arizona authorities plan to bring Jeffs "as soon as possible" to Mohave County to make an initial appearance on charges there, which allege he facilitated sexual misconduct and incest by officiating at several marriages involving underage girls.

brooke@sltrib.com

 

 

 

 

 

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