New FLDS rape case reeks of setup

I don’t feel sorry for Warren Jeffs. I do feel sorry for Allen Steed.

Fresh from winning their case against Jeffs, the empty-eyed megalomaniac of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Washington County prosecutors filed a rape charge against Steed on Wednesday based almost entirely on his court testimony and that of his one-time spiritual wife, Elissa Wall.

It’s almost like they set him up.

Steed was Wall’s 19-year-old first-cousin and bridegroom in 2001. Like 14-year-old Wall, Steed’s marriage was arranged for him by Jeffs. Like Wall, he followed Jeffs’ orders without question. Like Wall, he believed success in his marriage – specifically, multiplying and replenishing the Earth – would determine his eternal salvation. But Wall eventually bucked those teachings while Steed tried to follow them.

Now Steed is on trial and Wall is a feminist heroine.

The same prosecutors so eager to put Steed in jail now declined to charge him before he testified in Jeffs’ trial. Instead, they waited to see what he would say on the stand.

Steed said he was bewildered by his wife’s hostility, that he tried to love her into obeying him. Most importantly, he said she initiated their first sexual encounter, waking him up after a hard day of work.

She gives a very different account of their first intercourse, insisting she was shaking, sobbing, begging him to stop. Afterward, she fled to the bathroom and swallowed bottles of ibuprofen and aspirin. But she also acknowledged “sugaring up” their relationship later, trading sexual favors for the things she wanted.

The same day Steed was charged, she called him both a “victim of Warren Jeffs and a perpetrator of child abuse.”

I would agree if Steed were 30, 40 or 50 years old and if there were physical evidence, a hospital rape kit, a police report. But this is a classic case of he said, she said. Six years after the fact, without any apparent physical evidence, prosecutors will pit the woman against the man. They’re banking on her tear-stained face to do their work for them. It worked against Jeffs, why not Steed?

“This was a situation of credibility between the two witnesses. The jury believed this little girl,” says Gary Gale, the Ogden attorney who defended a Willard bigamist.

Steed “faces substantial jeopardy by going to trial,” Gale says. “If he were my client, I would certainly consider all avenues of settlement.”

In the end, prosecutors may get Steed on the same technicality that sunk Jeffs – a clause in Utah law that says a young girl need not, in fact cannot, consent to sex if she is influenced by someone in a position of authority over her.

That was the foundation of Wall’s testimony and Steed’s best defense: Warren made me do it. It worked for the victim; it probably won’t work for her accused attacker.

More columns by Rebecca Walsh

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday September 28, 2007.
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