KINGMAN, Ariz. — Polygamist Kelly Fischer was sentenced to 45 days in jail and three years of probation Wednesday for having sex with one of his “celestial wives” when she was no older than 16.
The sentence, which also requires Fischer, 39, to register as a sex offender, disappointed Mohave County prosecutor Matt Smith.
Smith had urged Superior Court Judge Steve Conn to sentence Fischer to prison. The prosecutor argued that Conn needed to send a clear message that male adults were not allowed to have sex with women younger than 18 unless they were legally married.
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After the sentencing, Smith said a prison term of at least six months would have been more appropriate.
Fischer was convicted of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor for having sex with Jenny Steed, who bore him a child five years ago when she was 16.
Steed refused to cooperate with prosecutors and sent a letter to Conn in support of Fischer.
Fischer was legally married to another woman when Steed was assigned as his “celestial wife,” a common polygamous practice of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The FLDS is led by Warren Jeffs, who is on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Most of the approximately 10,000 FLDS members live in Colorado City, Ariz., and its sister community of Hildale, Utah, across the northern Arizona border.
Jeffs was indicted 14 months ago for enabling alleged sex offenses by arranging and conducting the marriages of underage girls. Seven other Colorado City men await trial in Kingman in cases similar to Fischer’s.
Flora Jessop, who said she fled Colorado City and the sexual abuse she suffered there as a child, had urged Conn to send Fischer to prison so that children and young women in the town realize they don’t have to accept assignment and sexual subservience to men.
“How can the victims come forward when the people who are harming them are sent back into the home to continue today what they were doing yesterday,” Jessop said before Fischer’s sentence was imposed. “What strength do the victims have to come forward?”
Under the sentence, Fischer can begin serving his jail sentence as late as Nov. 6.
Fischer, addressing the court for nearly a half-hour, said there are no victims in his home.
“I can say for my life and my family that there’s no one that’s been pressured into doing anything they didn’t want to do,” he said. “Every single person is very happy. There’s no pain.”
During his rambling speech Fischer focused on his upbringing and key figures in his life, but he never mentioned Steed or any other wife, nor the conduct of which he was convicted. He expressed respect for the judge and didn’t ask for leniency.
Conn told Fischer that religious beliefs do not provide an exception to the laws that prohibit adults from having sex with minors.
“There is no reason why people in Colorado City, simply because they subscribe to a different religious belief, should believe that they have the right to do something that everyone else in society cannot do,” Conn said.
He emphasized that Fischer was sentenced for having sex with a girl under the legal age of consent and that the convictions cast no judgment on the FLDS or polygamy.
Conn noted personal difficulty with the polygamy in Colorado City.
“I personally find this to be an abominable belief on the part of anyone, and I find it very hard to accept how someone can subscribe to a religion that allows them to have multiple wives at the same time,” he said. “But there are many religious beliefs that I have a hard time dealing with.”