SAN ANGELO, Texas — The credentials and motives of a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints came under fire during the fifth day of the trial of Keith Dutson Jr.
Dutson, an FLDS member, is charged with child sexual assault.
Rebecca Musser, the ex-FLDS member, testified as both a lay and expert witness to stress the importance of record keeping among FLDS members.
“If it wasn’t recorded, it did not happen,” Musser said. “If it didn’t happen, you couldn’t gain your salvation.”
Her testimony was meant to authenticate records taken during a raid on the FLDS-owned Yearning for Zion Ranch in Schleicher County, a raid that resulted from what was later determined to be a hoax phone call from a woman claiming abuse.
The defense questioned Musser’s fraternization with law enforcement personnel, giving hugs to them and eating barbecue with them.
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Taking a break?
The defense also asked about two contracts with the state totaling $35,000, which lead Prosecutor Eric Nichols had Musser explain were for expenses incurred and projected.
“You have some disdain for the FLDS, is that correct?” asked Stephanie Goodman, one of Dutson’s attorneys.
“No, it’s not,” Musser said. “This is not for hate, and this is not for money.”
Goodman asked how Musser could’ve known much about record keeping reserved for men, and she said one way was that she observed her “husband,” the late FLDS prophet and leader Rulon Jeffs, fill out the forms.
Some FLDS members practice polygamy by engaging in unofficial but FLDS-recognized “spiritual” or “celestial” marriages.
Musser briefly described how she climbed over a fence in leaving the FLDS, and how she hadn’t been able to contact her mother and sisters, although she had been told they wanted nothing to do with her.
The state projected records, letters and pictures among other documents taken from the YFZ Ranch to show that Dutson and the alleged victim were residing on the ranch at the time of the alleged assault, in August of 2006 when Dutson was 21 and the alleged victim was 16.
John Sampson, a family law expert who teaches at the University of Texas School of Law, testified that from the evidence the state gave him that no legal marriage existed between Dutson and the alleged victim at the time of the alleged offense.
Brandon Hudson, one of Dutson’s attorneys, suggested all that was lacking for a legal marriage “was the paperwork,” from the parents giving official consent and having an official ceremony.
Dutson is charged with a second-degree felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. He has elected to be sentenced by the jury if convicted.