ST. GEORGE – Polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs will stand trial on charges that he arranged a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
Fifth District Court Judge James L. Shumate today ordered Jeffs to trial on two charges of rape as an accomplice, punishable by up to life in prison. Jeffs will remain in the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane pending trial, which is scheduled for April 23 through May 4, 2007.
Jeffs, 51, is president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, based in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., and is considered a prophet by his followers.
He was arrested on Aug. 28 arrest north of Las Vegas, ending a manhunt that landed him on the FBI’s Most Wanted fugitives list.
Shumate asked Jeffs if he would prefer to be arraigned at once, and Jeffs said he would. Jeffs then pleaded not guilty to both counts.
The judge said the prosecution had shown that the alleged victim, now 20 and called Jane Doe to protect her privacy, had objected to the union and to be wed to her cousin. Her cousin is being called John Doe in court.
Even at the ceremony, Shumate said, Jeffs knew from prior conversations with Doe that she was unwilling to ahead with the union and that she was opposed to marital relations with John Doe, positions that were clear as the ceremony proceeded.
“To say her agreement was reluctant, this court finds is very clear,” Shumate said.
And while the defense made much of the fact that Jane Doe did not use the term sexual intercourse, the judge said, it was clear she was using culturally coded and understandable terms in discussions. He added that it was not a “hard leap” to understand that marriage implies sexual consummation.
After the wedding, Jane Doe expressed “disdain, reluctance and opposition and totally dislike of sexual relations with” her husband, but that Jeffs sent her back to him, the judge said.
Earlier today, Jeffs’ defense attorney, Walter Bugden, said Jeffs merely conducted the marriage and offered standard marital advice – acts that fall short of being an accomplice to rape.
There is no proof that Jeffs knew Jane Doe was having nonconsensual sex or that her husband believed she was not a willing participant, Bugden said during a preliminary hearing on whether Jeffs would stand trial on two counts of accessory to rape.
The state has neither a crime nor an accessory to a crime, he said.
Without that, a “person who does not know a crime is occurring can’t be held liable for it,” he said in his closing argument. “It doesn’t matter if I was encouraging someone to do something if a crime doesn’t happen.”
As the court broke for lunch, Jeffs turned, smiled and gave a slight shrug of his shoulders to 16 FLDS members in the audience, as if to say, “Who knows?”
In his closing argument, Washington County Deputy Attorney Ryan Shaum said that Jeffs held a special trust relationship with Jane Doe, both as a religious leader and former schoolteacher, trust he violated when he ignored her pleas that she was too young to marry and was opposed to marrying her cousin. “She was fighting it tooth and nail right up to the marriage ceremony,” he said.
While others facilitated Jane Doe’s marriage, only Jeffs was capable of stopping it, Shaum said. He also said that Jeffs used psychological and theological pressure to coerce Doe to follow his instructions.
Jeffs “broke her will down, broke her options down, let her know this was the only way she was going to get to heaven,” he said. “The only person who could get [Jane Doe] into this relationship, and that includes a sexual relationship, is that man, Mr. Warren Jeffs.”
But Bugden countered that if a person doesn’t tell a bishop, priest or rabbi about a problem, then “the religious leader can’t be held responsible.”
Bugden said Jeffs gave Jane Doe “generic religious” counsel common to many faiths about the relationship between husbands and wives – among them the Southern Baptists, who during a 1998 convention in Salt Lake City adopted a statement that wives were to submit themselves willingly and graciously to their husbands.
He said countless marriage ceremonies available over the Internet use similar language about the need for wives to submit to their husbands. He pointed out that the language Jeffs is said to have recited at Jane Doe’s ceremony about “multiplying and replenishing the earth” comes from Genesis in the Bible.
“That is a blessing,” Bugden said. “As some people would say, it’s a blessing to have children. A reference in a marriage ceremony to that is not a command to have sexual intercourse tonight or within a month.”
The defense called just one witness: Shauna Jones, the Washington County Sheriff’s detective whose interview with Jane Doe led to the charges against Jeffs.
Bugden focused his questions on the fact that in that interview Jane Doe said she never explicitly discussed her sexual relationship with Jeffs, only telling him she was unhappy in the marriage and that her husband “did some things and touched her in places that made her uncomfortable.” “That is not the same as saying, I’m being forced to have sexual intercourse against my will,” he said.
But Jones also said that Jane Doe had told her in that in the FLDS culture it was unacceptable to speak specifically about intimate relationships and that she had no doubt Jeffs “knew what they were talking about.”
Original title: Jeffs ordered to stand trial on charge of rape as an accomplice