The Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 18, 2002
BY MICHAEL VIGH
Jason Miles Williams says his ex-wife was persuaded by leaders of a Utah polygamous religion to divorce him and become the second plural wife of another church member.
On Thursday, Williams of Hurricane filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City against the estate of Rulon Jeffs, the late leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS).
Williams claims his former wife was “brainwashed” by Jeffs and other “elders of the church” to leave their Colorado City, Ariz., home and divorce him.
Williams is a former member of the church that practices polygamy in the twin border cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Jeffs died on Sept. 8 at 92.
The alienation of affection lawsuit, the second that Williams has filed against Jeffs and other members of the church, seeks $20 million and asks that church leaders “cease and desist from unlawfully influencing [his] children’s beliefs.”
“Defendants have irreparably destroyed plaintiff’s marital state, his children’s well-being and stable happiness that they once enjoyed,” the lawsuit states.
Williams also claims Jeffs and other church leaders have “usurped his guarantees under the Constitution to free speech and the [practice of] his beliefs.”
The lawsuit, which also names John Does 1-15, demands a jury trial.
Williams’ attorney, Christopher Edwards of Hurricane, claims that the federal court is the proper venue for the lawsuit because a similar suit filed in state court in 1999 was tossed by 5th District Judge James L. Shumate of St. George.
In July, the Utah Court of Appeals upheld Shumate’s dismissal, finding that Arizona law, which does not recognize alienation of affection, applied. The judges also found Williams failed to prove his suffering warranted recovery for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Williams attempted to attend the late church leader’s Sept. 12 funeral, but was turned away. He told a Salt Lake Tribune reporter that he understood the church’s position and went away quietly.