SAN ANGELO, Texas — A Tom Green County jury on Tuesday found Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints member Keith William Dutson Jr. guilty of sexual assault of a child.
Jurors deliberated more than five hours on the sixth day of the trial.
Dutson has elected to be sentenced by the jury. The second-degree felony carries a penalty of two to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Fifty-first District Judge Barbara Walther, who is presiding over the case, told jurors to return at 2 p.m. Wednesday for the sentencing portion of the trial.
Following the verdict, Hudson requested that his client remain free on bond, but Walther denied that request and Dutson went into custody after receiving a hug from his attorney.
Nichols said the case was strictly about sexual assault, not about the validity of search warrants used to gather the evidence, something the defense has routinely contested in most of the evidence offered.
The evidence came from a raid on the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in April 2008, provoked by what is now known to be a hoax phone call from a woman who claimed she was being abused at the ranch.
“Don’t make it a cut-and-dry easy decision,” said Stephanie Goodman, another attorney for Dutson. “This is about his belief that (the alleged victim) is his wife.”
Goodman and Hudson spent much of their allotted time working to discredit state witness Rebecca Musser, who authenticated documents taken from the ranch.
“She is their so-called expert. She has every reason to be here and tear this person down,” Goodman said, motioning to Dutson. “Not to be brave and truthful.”
Nichols quoted from FLDS scripture that says a woman can become “the property” of a man. Hudson cited FLDS scripture as saying a marriage ceremony declares the marriage “lawful.”
Tuesday morning, jurors read personal letters to the FLDS leader from Dutson. The letters were written in ornate cursive penmanship, with Biblical allusions and filled with references to “yearning.”
Some of the letters described Dutson’s relationship with his “spiritual” or “celestial” wife.
The FLDS sanctions polygamous marriages, which are not official civil marriages.
“The Lord named three marriages to be performed,” one record of FLDS leader and prophet Warren Jeffs stated with regard to performing Dutson’s marriage. “After they received training on how to abide by the covenants of Celestial Plural Marriage, they left.”
Dutson would have been 20 at the time of the marriage in October 2005, and the girl would have been 15. The sexual assault happened sometime in August 2006.