A lawyer for Warren S. Jeffs on Tuesday told the Utah Supreme Court that prosecutors misapplied the law when they charged the polygamous leader with rape as an accomplice for his role in the marriage of a 14-year-old girl.
Jeffs’ attorney, Walter Bugden Jr., said the state could have charged Jeffs with performing an illegal marriage, but instead decided to charge an unpopular religious figure with a serious crime that didn’t fit the facts of the case.
For Jeffs to be guilty, Bugden said, he would have had to intended that non-consensual sex take place, and he did not. If there was non-consensual sex, the groom was responsible, he said.
But Assistant Attorney General Laura Dupaix said Jeffs had total control over Elissa Wall and forced her to get married to her 19-year-old cousin, even though the ninth-grader begged him to stop the marriage. In the ceremony, Jeffs told the couple to go forth and multiply, Dupaix said.
Later, when Wall went to Jeffs for counseling and asked to be let out of the marriage, his response was for her to repent and “submit mind, body and soul” to her husband, she said.
“Under Utah law, that makes Warren Jeffs an accomplice to rape,” Dupaix said.
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Lawyers for Jeffs are seeking to reverse the convictions or get a new trial.
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