FLDS: Daughters married off, jury told

Sentencing phase continues in sex assault

San Angelo Standard-Times/December 17, 2009

Eldorado - Lead Prosecutor Eric Nichols will continue today offering further evidence and calling witnesses to testify in the sentencing phase of the trial of Allan Eugene Keate, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints found guilty Tuesday by a Schleicher County jury on a charge of sexual assault of a child.

Keate elected before the trial began Dec. 7 to have his sentence determined by the jury rather than the judge, if convicted.

Wednesday began with jurors hearing testimony from prosecution witnesses. Documents saying Keate had married off his teenage daughters were entered into evidence.

Rebecca Musser, a former FLDS member, returned to the witness stand to testify about her life in an FLDS community. Musser had testified earlier in the trial.

She said she was "placed" with Rulon Jeffs, who was prophet of the FLDS community at the time.

The FLDS practice polygamy by arranging "spiritual" or "celestial" marriages that are not recognized by civil authorities.

Musser said that she was 19 years old and that Jeffs was 84. She said she was Jeffs' 19th wife.

Nichols used a projector to show jurors a picture showing dozens of women clothed in white surrounding a man in a black jacket.

"These are all his wives at the time of the wedding photo," Musser said.

Nichols then brought stacks of manila folders to Musser and had her verify the types of documents contained in them: personal records, priesthood records, marriage records and other categories.

Musser also explained the phrase "house in hiding," which would later appear on pictures shown to the jury.

"We were taught that God would sweep the wicked off the face of the earth and ... a part of that group would come against (the FLDS), so they would need to hide their way of life," Musser said.

The prosecution also called Carolyn Jessop as an expert witness on the sect, having lived in an FLDS community for 35 years. She left in 2003, she said, because she disagreed with the marrying age dropping to 14.

Jessop said she was among six wives and her husband fathered 54 children.

Life was convoluted and contentious in a polygamist household, she said.

"There was conflict with who got what jobs," Jessop said. "There was a lot of contention among the wives. ... A lot of our religion was about how to keep sweet."

Lead defense attorney Randy Wilson asked Jessop if she had any connection to Keate's family life. She said she did not.

"She has no close or direct link," Wilson said.

Nichols brought in an investigator with the Texas Attorney General's office, Sgt. Wesley Hensley to comment on the contents of the evidence shown to Musser. He read off marriage records and personal records to show that Keate had multiple nonlegal wives and children by them and that he had taken a wife previously "sealed" to another man.

Nichols also questioned Hensley about the children.

"Did you find records that would indicate that these children were placed in a spiritual or celestial marriage?" Nichols asked.

"Yes," Hensley said.

The prosecution then displayed a variety of documents indicating that Keate had participated in marrying off three of his daughters, two of them 15 and one 14.

Nichols later showed letters, also seen during the verdict phase of the trial, from Keate to FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs that complained that Keate's underage wife acted "silly" and that Keate had received letters daily from her, at his orders, about how she was doing and how much she loved him.

Keate also asked the "beloved bishop," as he called Warren Jeffs, about how to be intimate with his wives.

"Sometimes I rotate and stay with each wife in their room," one letter read. He asked whether that was the right thing to do and if he should sleep with the women who can no longer bear children.

Family law expert John Sampson took the witness stand again to give his opinion regarding the enhancement to the penal code about sexual assault of a child, which says that sexual assault of a child is a first-degree felony if the offender was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry the victim.

Sampson said that in his opinion, Keate falls under the enhancement.

The court adjourned about 5 p.m.

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.

In November a Schleicher County jury convicted Raymond Merril Jessop of child sexual assault and sentenced him to 10 years in prison after less than three hours of deliberation.

Jessop's conviction was for a second-degree felony; Keate faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment because he is accused of committing the crime after the Texas Legislature added an enhancement to the penal code.

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