Women testify Jeffs compelled teens to wed older men
ST. GEORGE – For more than four hours Tuesday, Jane Doe IV testified about her unwanted marriage to a cousin and her attempts to get polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs to release her from the union.
But Doe also admitted she never explicitly accused her husband of rape in those conversations with Jeffs.
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“I said to Warren he was touching me and doing things I didn’t like,” said Doe, now 20. “I didn’t tell anybody I was being raped.”
Testimony by Doe and two of her sisters Tuesday provided the most detailed account yet of what allegedly happened in 2001 when she was married at 14 to a 19-year-old cousin – but also raised questions about her motives, character and her claims of rape.
Fifth District Judge James L. Shumate continued the hearing until Dec. 14, when he will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to order Jeffs to trial on two first-degree felony charges of being an accomplice to rape.
The charges, punishable by up to life in prison, stem from counsel Jeffs gave Doe to proceed with the assigned marriage and subsequently officiating over it and advising her to remain in the union.
Jeffs was arrested Aug. 28 during a traffic stop on Interstate 15 outside Las Vegas, ending his 15 months as a fugitive. He has been in the Purgatory Correctional Facility since Sept. 5.
He appeared more gaunt, his suit hanging on his tall frame and his face drawn. As he entered the courtroom in the morning, he exchanged smiles with 10 FLDS members – among them Hildale City Councilman Lamar Johnson, Sam Roundy Sr. and his half-brother Joseph Jeffs – who attended the hearing.
Jeffs sat motionless, flanked by attorneys Wally Bugden and Tara Isaacson of Salt Lake and Richard Wright of Las Vegas, calmly watching as Doe and her two sisters testified.
Doe said she learned from her stepfather, Fred Jessop, she was to be married, an assignment her sister Rebecca Musser said Jessop had pushed.
Her shock at the news deepened, Doe said, when she learned she was to be married to a cousin she described as a name-calling bully.
Her pleas to stop or put off the marriage were ignored by Jessop, her mother and Jeffs, she said. Doe acquiesced in the end because she considered the union a revelation passed by God to Rulon Jeffs, the aging president and prophet of the FLDS church.
Rebecca Musser, Doe’s older sister, said she was 19 when she became a plural wife of Rulon T. Jeffs in 1995; Rulon Jeffs, then leader of the FLDS church, was 83.
Musser said Rulon Jeffs was incapacitated by a stroke in 1997 and, by the time of her sister’s wedding, Warren was making decisions for his father.
The wedding took place in a motel in Caliente, Nev., with Warren Jeffs officiating, Doe said, adding that she wept for hours before and was all but speechless during the ceremony.
Weeping again on the stand, Doe said, “This was the darkest time of my entire life, one of the most painful things I’ve ever been through.”
The marriage was consummated about a month later, said Doe, much to her shock.
She described herself as miserable throughout the 3 1/2 -year union, and unhappiness drove her to meet with or phone Jeffs five times seeking release.
At one meeting, Jeffs gave her a book called In Truth and Light, a compilation of biblical, Mormon and FLDS teachings about marriage and child-rearing.
Theresa Blackmore, a sister, said Doe looked like a “body with no soul” in the months after the wedding and “there was never a time she was happy about the marriage, ever.”
Prosecutors focused on Doe’s understanding of FLDS teachings about dutiful wives who are obedient and told to “keep sweet.”
Bugden and Isaacson countered that with passages from Jeffs’ lessons and sermons in which he counsels FLDS faithful to be loving, kind and respectful – even advising them, in the words of a another religious leader, to treat their wives like “angels of God.”
“This is something that was taught, but actions are different,” Doe said.
Isaacson took most of the afternoon to carefully challenge Doe’s reluctance to marry, her description of her husband’s actions and her efforts to get out of the union.
She said Doe described her marriage as “all misery,” but appeared to be smiling beside her husband in numerous photos taken during their marriage. Doe replied that she was faking it.
Isaacson also noted an entry in the young Doe’s journal in which the girl, about a week before her marriage, pleaded with God for a husband.
Isaacson recounted statements Doe made to investigators about her poor treatment of her husband and asked her about love notes he had written to her.
Doe said she “sugared it up” at times, initiating and participating in sex with her husband to gain his favor during portions of their 3 1/2 -year union.
But, Doe said Tuesday, “I never wanted it.”
Doe acknowledged Jeffs never explicitly told her to engage in sexual intercourse with her husband and said she used vague language to describe intimate acts she found unappealing.
Even when her mother-in-law questioned whether she was being treated well and advised her she could “say no,” Doe never spoke out, Isaacson said.
Doe said her husband never forced her to have sexual relations but that “things happened between [them] that I didn’t agree with.”
Doe admitted that despite her unhappiness, she never sought help with leaving from sisters or her biological father or brothers who had left the faith and lived in Salt Lake City, where she also lived until moving to Hildale at age 13.
“That was never an option for me,” Doe said.
Doe said she tried to make the marriage work but by 2003 had taken to living in her truck to avoid her husband.
That fall, she had also met “a gentleman I had decided to spend my life with,” the man who is now her husband. Her first marriage collapsed, she acknowledged, after her husband found a receipt for condoms and a photograph of a trip she had taken with the boyfriend to Las Vegas.
“This all happened while you said you were trapped in Hildale,” Isaacson told Doe.
In November 2004, Doe and her husband were called to a meeting with FLDS leaders; Jeffs, participating by telephone, expelled Doe from the faith.
She left the community that night with her boyfriend, pregnant with his child.
Isaacson also questioned Doe’s motives in filing criminal charges against Jeffs, saying the allegations came only after she sued him.
Doe said she decided to participate in the criminal case because “I wanted to help other girls who were in the same situation.”
Tribune reporter Mark Havnes contributed to this story.