Jury gives FLDS man 33 years

Keate is 2nd sect member sent to prison

San Angelo Standard-Times, Texas/December 17, 2009

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.

Earlier in the day, during closing arguments for sentencing, Keate didn't bother to look up at the slides that the prosecution showed the jury. He sat stolidly, peering at the jurors from under his brow.

The prosecution started lightly, comparing a child's belief in Santa Claus to telling children from an early age and then throughout their life that they have no choice in whom to marry or how to live their lives.

"They're going to put their trust in you," said Angela Goodwin, one of the state's team of attorneys. "This punishment phase, you heard of some major violations of that trust."

Goodwin began with the issue of the girl with whom Keate fathered a child. "It wasn't even her first marriage," Goodwin said.

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.

Fifty-first District Court Judge Barbara Walther told jurors they had the option of recommending probation if they decided on a penalty of no more than 10 years in prison.

Lead defense attorney Randy Wilson framed the issue as one of religious liberties.

Wilson referred to letters the jury had seen in which Keate asked for help in being a good husband to his various wives.

"Does this sound like a pedophile, or does it sound like a man devoted to God?" he asked.

Wilson had the jury envision a scenario of the government prosecuting religious leaders for giving alcohol to minors by giving them communion wine.

He made a comparison of civil rights activists to those persecuted for practicing their religion.

"Each of us would be horrified," Wilson said. "We are absolutely dealing with a government that is trying to violate freedom of religion."

Wilson said Keate would do well with probation, adding that it is not an easy system to be on.

Lead Prosecutor Eric Nichols followed Wilson and mocked his story about communion wine.

"When we're talking about drinking alcohol and sexual abuse of a child, does that person get it?" Nichols said. "How is it not more insidious that she was groomed that her sexual abuse was right, that her sexual abuse was necessary for her to reach the highest level of heaven?"

Earlier, the jury heard from two experts.

Forensic psychology expert Jarvis Wright came in for the defense to argue that grooming and conditioning are essential to parenting in general, and that it was natural for that to occur among the FLDS, and that Keate is unlike pedophiles he has examined.

Wright said the chances of Keate offending again were "tremendously tiny."

Psychological trauma expert Larry Beall, a state witness, said absolute submission to another human being does not always bode well for mental health.

Beall said that the responses of FLDS women were "almost robotic" in recounting traumatic experiences such as domestic violence.

Beall said adolescents don't have the full decision-making capacities that adults have.

"The conclusion is that it's unfair to judge adolescent decision making by adult standards," he said.

On the emotional level, Beall said the absence of choices inhibits adolescence as a stage of identity formation. It builds into shame and guilt if the victim does not go along with whatever is commanded.

Defense attorney Evan Jones countered that Beall was not a theological expert and had no experience with how the victim was raised. He also said Beall's research was skewed since he would encounter only patients who were looking for help at a shelter where he worked.

The defense then brought in Kelly Roestenburg, president of a metal working corporation who has conducted business with Keate, a machinist.

"In the course of getting to know Allan, were you familiar with his character as truthful, honest and law-abiding?" Jones asked.

Roestenburg said that he was and that he had gone fishing and had lunch with Keate.

He said he had done millions of dollars worth of business with Keate and that they never had to make a contract, they had only to shake hands.

Jones asked whether the verdict against Keate changed his mind about his character.

"No, it doesn't," Roestenburg said.

Nichols asked Roestenburg whether during his dealings with Keate he had ever met or heard mentioned any of Keate's wives. Roestenburg said he hadn't.

The defense also brought on Texas Ranger Danny Crawford to say testify that, in his criminal background check, Keate showed no records of any crimes in any states, making him eligible for probation.

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.

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 faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

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