After two hearings lasting 12 hours Monday, the stage is set for the trial of Allan Eugene Keate, beginning today in the Memorial Building in Eldorado.
Judge Barbara Walther, known for marathon courtroom sessions, presided over a joint consolidated motion by the defense attorneys for 10 members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Monday in the same makeshift courtroom where last month Raymond Merril Jessop was convicted of child sexual abuse and sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Schleicher County jury.
Keate is the second of the 10 to go to trial on a charge of child sexual abuse based on evidence acquired during the state’s historic raid in April 2008 on the Yearning For Zion Ranch, the 1,700-acre community near Eldorado operated and inhabited by members of the polygamist sect.
Keate is alleged to have taken an underage girl as a “spiritual” wife. Having sex with an underage girl is a first degree felony, punishable by five to 99 years in prison. The FLDS practices polygamy as part of its religious beliefs, with the men sometimes taking “spiritual” or “celestial” wives in addition to their legal spouses.
The Texas Office of the Attorney General, which is prosecuting the case, alleges Keate was 52 when he spiritually married his victim, then 15, in May 2005.
She was the fifth of his six wives, and one of two teenagers — the other was 17 — married to Keate on the same day at the YFZ Ranch, according to state filings.
The girl gave birth to Keate’s child in December 2006, the state alleges. Prosecutors say in court documents that Keate has at least 25 children.
As they did in Jessop’s trial, prosecutors are expected to use family photographs, personal and marriage records taken from the ranch during an April 2008 investigation to make their case against Keate.
The state will rely on many witnesses it used in Jessop’s case, such as Texas rangers who participated in the ranch investigation and genetic analysts who processed DNA samples from Keate, the alleged victim and her child. Also on the state’s list areYFZ Ranch bishop Frederick Merril Jessop and several of Keate’s wives and daughters, whom the state alleges he allowed to be married when they were minors.
Also set to testify: Salt Lake psychologist Larry Beall, who told jurors during Jessop’s trial he has counseled five women and 15 men who previously belonged to the sect.
[Attorney Randy Wilson] has listed a number of expert witnesses he may call on Keate’s behalf. They include Jarvis Wright, a San Angelo psychologist who has provided evaluations in a number of high-profile cases; Stuart A. Wright, director of research and sponsored programs at Lamar University, and sociologist who has written about new religious movements and why people leave them; and religious scholar W. John Walsh of Missouri City, Texas, who has studied FLDS practices and beliefs.