Jurors get day off before hearing closing arguments in trial of polygamous leader

ST. GEORGE – Allen Steed said he was clumsy and awkward during their marriage but denied he ever forced sex with his former wife, who has accused polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs of being an accomplice to rape.

It was his wife, known as Jane Doe, who initiated their first act of sexual intercourse, he said – offering jurors a starkly different account of what happened.

When he sought advice from Jeffs about their “rough and rocky” marriage, Steed said he was counseled to ”take it slow. Try to get close. Try to show love. Be kind.”

Testimony in Jeffs’ trial concluded Wednesday and jurors will hear closing arguments Friday before beginning deliberations.

The charges against Jeffs, punishable by five years to life in prison, are based on Doe’s 2001 spiritual marriage at age 14 to Steed, then 19. Steed has not been charged with any crime.

Steed told jurors he grew up in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Jeffs’ has led the sect since his father and former prophet Rulon’s death in September 2002.

Steed left high school before graduating to begin work. He described himself as not good at communicating and “not particularly schooled” about sexual matters.

“I didn’t know too much about how to make a girl like me,” he said.

Steed, 26, had to be prompted numerous times to speak loudly enough to be heard in the courtroom, finally telling 5th District Judge James L. Shumate he would be more comfortable standing while he testified.

Steed said he was told by Doe’s stepfather, Fred Jessop, about his intended bride about two or three days before the ceremony. He knew little about her, though they share a common polygamous grandfather.

For the first few weeks – which included their honeymoon – they would hug, kiss and touch, he said. At times Doe asked that he stop. “Then I did,” he said.

Steed said his wife was affectionate in private but often cold in public.

“I had to learn to love her, for sure, and I’m sure she had to learn to love me,” he said. “Sometimes I would come and I’d tell her, ‘I love you.’ She’d turn with a cold shoulder and say, ‘Yeah, right.’ I really did mean it from the bottom of my heart.”

Steed said he asked Doe sometime after their marriage when she wanted to have children; she gave a vague answer that ranged from two weeks to five years. The FLDS believe sexual intimacy should occur only for procreation.

“I just always felt like the woman had the right to decide,” said Steed, also saying it was a “mutual decision between the man and the lady.”

Steed said he tried to win Doe over with love letters, saying he found it easier to express his feelings in writing. Defense attorney Walter Bugden had Steed read aloud from some of those letters.

He admitted exposing himself to her one evening in a community park and said he thought it might hurry along physical intimacy. “She was surprised,” he said. “I could tell I had offended her.”

Days later, he arrived home from work so tired from putting in 12 to 15 hours as an electrician that he went to bed in his work clothes.

“She woke me up, asked me if I cared about her,” he said. “I told her I did. She rolled up close to me, asked me to scratch her back. One thing led to another,” he said, and the couple had intercourse.

Steed said they never really talked about intimacy and that he relied “more on actions than words” as a signal for when Doe was comfortable enough to consummate their marriage and to have sex later on.

“She didn’t come right out and say stop or no or don’t, at least push away from me or something,” he said.

In her testimony last week, Doe said Steed had told her weeks into their marriage that it was “time for you to be a wife.” She said he disrobed her as she was sobbing and her “whole body was shaking.” Doe said she told him, “Please don’t” as he laid her on a bed and had sex with her.

Steed denied that Doe had acted that way when questioned by prosecutors. Asked by Bugden if he ever forced his wife to have sex with him, Steed answered, “No sir.”

Bugden read Steed his Miranda rights as the morning began, asking him whether he was willing to testify knowing it could lead to charges against him. Steed, who was accompanied to court by his attorney Jim Bradshaw, said he wanted the truth out.

He said police never interviewed him about the alleged rape until after they filed charges against Jeffs in April 2006.

Steed said that in addition to his own meetings with Jeffs, the couple once went together to see him. They were told to “pray together, work together, pray together, play together, love each other,” he said.

He portrayed Doe as the stronger personality in the relationship.

“I tried to make decisions with wisdom and love, and a lot of times I didn’t voice my decision, just knowing there would be opposition,” Steed said. ”If she decided to do something I didn’t want her to do” she would just do it anyway.

In time, Doe began staying away from him, sleeping at her mother’s home and taking his telephone calls only infrequently, he said.

“I believed I had to be very, very patient,” he said. He never considered asking for a release, the FLDS term for divorce, because he considered their marriage to be “for time and all eternity.”

Steed broke down in tears when asked about his wife’s affair, which she had denied. The affair led to the collapse of their marriage, he said.

“It hurt really bad,” he said. “I tried everything I knew. Never been good with communication.”

Prosecutors asked Steed whether he would lie for Jeffs, whom he considers to be his prophet. “I believe he would never tell me to do something wrong,” Steed said.

Steed later clarified that other than polygamy, he knew of no other laws that conflicted with the sect’s teachings and said his loyalty was greater to God’s laws than to the prophet.

The state called one rebuttal witness, a Canadian midwife. Jane Blackmore testified that while treating Doe for a miscarriage in December 2002, the young woman said she felt like she was being forced to have sex and her husband “wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
The Salt Lake Tribune, USA
Sep. 20, 2007
Brooke Adams

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This post was last updated: Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 3:55 PM, Central European Time (CET)