SAN ANGELO, Texas — ELDORADO — A Schleicher County jury has sentenced Allan Eugene Keate to 33 years in prison. The jury announced its sentencing decision at 9:50 p.m. Thursday.
The jury had retired at 4:45 p.m. to consider the punishment for the 57-year-old, having convicted him two days ago of sexually assaulting a child.
According to documents the state seized during the historic April 2008 raid, the victim had been previously “sealed” — committed to another man.
Goodwin also highlighted that the age difference was 38 years.
She noted that, according to documents, the victim and Keate had gone before the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Warren Jeffs, when the victim was unwilling to “get close” to Keate. Goodwin said the victim was told to hold hands with Keate on the way home and to have a talk.
“She offered up just a little bit of resistance, and that was squashed,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin said Keate had also betrayed the trust of his own daughters in having given them away in “spiritual” or “celestial” marriage, two of them at 15 and one at 14, to older men. The youngest of the three went to Jeffs.
The prosecution showed a bit of a document attributed to Jeffs that read, “I informed them about their daughter … belonging to me. They went home and brought her right back.”
Goodwin also referred to the testimony of expert witness John Sampson to establish that the enhancement, which makes the crime a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison instead of a second-degree felony of two to 20 years in prison, applies to Keate’s offense. The enhancement applies if the defendant was prohibited from living under the appearance of marriage with the victim.
Keate’s conviction involved his illegal marriage to an underage girl while residing at the Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado, a secretive community inhabited by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Keate elected before the trial began Dec. 7 to have his sentence determined by the jury rather than the judge, if convicted.
Keate is one of 10 FLDS men indicted by a Schleicher County grand jury in November 2008 on charges of sexual assault of a child in connection with allegedly illegal marriages to underage girls. He is the second to stand trial.
Outside the makeshift courthouse, lead prosecutor Eric Nichols stepped into the harsh light of television cameras at about 10 p.m. and read a prepared statement.
He said Keate’s victim, 15 years old at the time of the assault, which occurred around April 2006, had been in a “celestial marriage” twice.
Celestial marriages are unofficial religious betrothals that FLDS members use to practice polygamy.
Nichols said Keate had given away three of his daughters in marriage to older men. Two of those daughters were 15 and one was 14, and the last was given away to Warren Jeffs, then prophet of the FLDS who has been imprisoned for aiding in child rape by transporting a young girl across state lines.
Nichols said he was satisfied with the sentence.
“Any time a jury in Texas assesses punishment, it’s a good day for the justice system in Texas,” he said. “Justice was again served today.”
That “again” referenced the trial of Raymond Merril Jessop, convicted in November by a Schleicher County jury on a child sexual assault charge and sentenced to 10 years and an $8,000 fine. He is in the Tom Green County Jail.
Throughout the trial, jurors heard from state witnesses who described life inside the FLDS, including the testimony of Rebecca Musser, who said that if special events were not properly recorded on Earth, they would not be recorded in heaven, and without the blessings of heaven the person would “burn in hell.”
The defense brought in an expert on Mormonism with some FLDS familiarity to say that Musser’s testimony wasn’t true of all who believed in the same sacred Mormon writings, that examples of “the Book of Life” in heaven and “the Book of Remembrance” on Earth are spiritual metaphors.
The importance of the sacredness of the writings reflected how much weight the jury would give documents recovered from the FLDS Yearning For Zion Ranch.
Trials for the other indictments have been scheduled through December of next year. The next trial, for sexual assault charges against Michael Emack, is scheduled for Jan. 25. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Jan. 7, when the location of Emack’s trial likely will be determined.
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