ST. GEORGE – Washington County prosecutors charged Allen G. Steed with one count of rape Wednesday – a day after his former wife’s testimony helped convict polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs for the same crime.
Steed, 26, last week stood at Jeffs’ trial and quietly denied ever raping Wall.
Accompanied to court by attorney Jim Bradshaw, Steed said he was willing to risk being charged because he wanted the truth out.
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Bradshaw said his client plans to “vigorously contest” the charge.
“The state’s decision to charge Allen Steed is not about his relationship with Elissa Wall but it’s more about the fact he testified for Warren Jeffs,” Bradshaw said. “The state made it clear the decision was made the day he testified, and I think that’s wrong.”
Bradshaw said he is arranging for Steed to surrender on an arrest warrant next week. He said a $50,000 cash-only bond set for his client was inappropriate.
Steed lives in the twin towns at the Utah/Arizona state line and has for the past six years, Bradshaw said.
“I don’t think there is any reason to think he’s a flight risk,” he said. “He is going to deal with this responsibly.”
Last week, Steed testified that he relied on Wall’s actions to signal her readiness for sexual intimacy and that if she ever asked him to stop, “Then I did.”
It was Wall, he said, who initiated their first sexual encounter about three weeks after their April 23, 2001, wedding.
Wall cuddled up to him, asked whether he cared for her and that one thing then led to another, said Steed, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Steed said he never remembered her verbally objecting to sexual intercourse with him.
“She didn’t come right out and say stop or no or don’t, or at least push away from me or something,” said Steed, a truck driver, who acknowledged their marriage was “rough and rocky.”
But Wall testified that the first time the couple had sex, she sobbed and told Steed, “Please don’t” as he laid her on a bed and had sex with her.
Wall released a statement Wednesday after learning of the charged filed against her former husband.
“Allen Steed was both a victim of Warren Jeffs and a perpetrator of child abuse. We have seen the justice system bring out the truth and I am confident it will again,” Wall said.
Authorities never interviewed Steed before filing the case against Jeffs in April 2005.
The rape charge against Steed is based in part on testimony he and Wall gave during Jeffs’ trial, according to documents filed in 5th District Court. Washington County prosecutors allege a rape occurred between April 14, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2004.
Wall learned from her stepfather Fred Jessop on April 15, 2001, that she was to be married to Steed. Jessop also told Steed about the marriage.
FLDS marriages are arranged by the prophet through, they believe, divine revelation. Rulon T. Jeffs was the prophet at the time of Wall’s marriage; Warren Jeffs was first counselor in the faith, while Jessop was the second counselor.
The charge is a first-degree felony, punishable by five years to life in prison.
Jeffs was convicted Tuesday on two counts of being an accomplice to rape for conducting the marriage and counseling Wall to stay with her husband despite her objections. She was 14 at the time; Steed was 19.
Jurors said the fact that Steed had not been charged was discussed, but did not hamper their deliberations.
“We did think that he did and does need to be charged, but in the same aspect, we felt he was some sort of victim also,” juror Deidre Shaw, 32, a St. George homemaker, said after hearing of the new charge.
“If Warren hadn’t married him and Elissa, Allen wouldn’t have put himself in this situation,” she said.
While Steed was over age 18 and could have left the relationship, he was also under Jeffs’ influence and command, she said.
Some jurors said they did not find Steed a credible witness, particularly regarding when and how the first sexual encounter occurred.
Juror Ben Coulter, 26, said he felt justice demanded that Steed also be charged. “I actually think that it’s really good. I’m kind of shocked that it was as quick as it was,” he said.
Coulter said charging both men at the same time could have spurred them to blame one another at trial. “If they would have had them both charged I think things could have gotten a lot more complicated,” he said.
At Jeffs’ trial, Wall testified she felt so “dirty and used” after having sex the first time with Steed that she retreated to a bathroom, curled up on the floor and bawled.
“I felt like a horrible person,” she said. “I didn’t understand why he had done what he had just done.
“I thought I wanted to die,” she said.
Wall said Steed had begun by telling her it was “time for you to be a wife.” She said he disrobed her as she was sobbing and her “whole body was shaking.”
Steed denied that Wall had acted that way when questioned by prosecutors. Asked by Jeffs’ defense attorney Walter F. Bugden if he ever forced his wife to have sex with him, Steed answered, “No sir.”
Bugden had first read Steed his Miranda rights, asking him whether he was willing to testify, knowing it could lead to charges against him.
Prosecutors asked Steed whether he would lie for Jeffs, whom he considers to be his prophet in FLDS.
“I believe he would never tell me to do something wrong,” Steed answered.
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.
Steed told jurors he grew up in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., home to the FLDS church. Jeffs has led the sect since his father and former prophet Rulon’s death in September 2002.
At a preliminary hearing last year, Wall had testified she felt Steed also was a victim of Jeffs. At Jeffs’ trial, when asked about her past comment that she did not want him charged, she acknowledged she had once felt that way.