This week’s conviction in Utah of a polygamous sect leader doesn’t erase a problem prosecutors have faced in their ongoing crackdown on plural marriages involving underage girls in northern Arizona: victims who are reluctant to testify in court.
The problem has surfaced in cases against eight men from Colorado City but is expected to be even more formidable in the prosecution of sect leader Warren Jeffs, who has been accused of arranging marriages between underage girls and older men.
In Arizona, Jeffs faces four felony charges involving marriages between two teenage girls and older men in a 2005 case. He also is charged as an accomplice with four counts of incest and four counts of sexual contact with a minor in an indictment handed up earlier this year for similar cases.
Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was convicted Tuesday in Utah on charges of being an accomplice to rape. He was accused of influencing a 14-year-old girl to marry her 19-year-old cousin.
About four years ago, prosecutors began pressuring the FLDS, a sect that practices polygamy and broke away from the main Mormon church.
Prosecutors said their efforts were intended to stop the abuse of children, mainly teenage girls placed in arranged marriages with older men.
Prosecutors said victims in polygamy cases face powerful influence against cooperating with authorities from family and community members who consider Jeffs a prophet of God.
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