ST. GEORGE – The young victim known only as “Jane Doe” understands what lies ahead and is prepared for her role as the lead witness in the prosecution of polygamous leader Warren S. Jeffs, a county attorney said Thursday afternoon.
Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap said the longtime resident of Hildale, part of the home base of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, wants the public to know her case is not about religion or polygamy.
“This case is about someone in a position of power and authority abusing a young girl,” said Belnap, who added that 5th District Judge James L. Shumate will oversee Jeffs’ jury trial.
The girl has alleged in a criminal filing that within the past four years, when she was between the ages of 14 and 18, Jeffs commanded her to become the plural wife of a 28-year-old man over her objections.
For his role as an accomplice, Jeffs faces two felony rape charges, punishable by five years to life in prison.
On Thursday, Belnap emphasized that Jeffs is not accused of being present during that crime or engaging in sex with the victim. He is relying on a precedent set in a 1999 Utah Supreme Court case to prosecute Jeffs as an accomplice.
He said it is likely the man the girl married will not be charged, for “strategic reasons affecting the prosecution.”
Belnap said that he hoped that any other victims might feel encouraged to come forward.
“We will do everything we can to protect and preserve the privacy, confidentiality and the respect for people who want to come out,” he said.
Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith said extra officers are working in the polygamous FLDS community because “this is a challenging time for many of their citizens.”
As for the potential for violence, Smith said “that group has historically been very docile.”
Belnap also said he was confident that Jeffs could get a fair trial in Utah.
“The people of Washington County will be able to set aside whatever they’ve heard or prejudices” and give Jeffs a “fair trial,” he said.