Utah alleges polygamist leader a 'pimp'

Vancouver Sun/November 22, 2006
By Daphne Bramham

St. George, Utah -- Polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs accused of arranging marriages between under-age girls and members of his fundamentalist church is nothing more than a pimp, the state of Utah alleged.

Jeffs is the 50-year-old leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints a breakaway sect of the Mormon church charged with two counts of rape as an accomplice. The charges are related to his arranging and performing marriages between under-age girls and older men.

In Bountiful, B.C., about 500 people follow Jeffs and another 700 have remained loyal to Winston Blackmore, who was excommunicated by Jeffs nearly four years ago.

A preliminary hearing for Jeffs began Tuesday.

The state's argument which relies on precedents from other cases involving polygamy, as well as from cases involving forced prostitution was made in documents filed Monday.

Jeffs was arrested in August in Las Vegas after having spent four months on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. Jeffs was apprehended in a traffic stop after nearly two years on the run.

The state's key witness Tuesday was a young woman who said she was forced into a religious not legal marriage when she was 14 years old. Her husband was 19, and he was also her first cousin.

The young woman, who is now 20 and pregnant, sobbed as she told the court how she tried to convince Jeffs, his father Rulon (who was the prophet at the time) and her stepfather Fred Jessop that she was too young to marry.

She begged them to at least let her wait two more years until she was 16. However, they refused.

''Everybody who I respected, every leader made me feel like I was defying God,'' she said through tears.

''My salvation was in jeopardy, my family, I knew nothing else. I was scared of the outside world and I loved the people there so much. I felt if I didn't do it I would forever pay the consequences and my salvation was in jeopardy and I would never go to heaven.''

If Jeffs is tried and convicted, the man some 12,000 followers revere as a prophet could spend the rest of his life in prison.

The attorneys-general of Utah, Arizona and British Columbia believe Jeffs has done many worse things while exercising complete control over his followers in B.C., Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, Texas and Mexico.

At the time of his arrest, the attorney general of Arizona said this: "The arrest is a major step toward ending Jeffs's tyrannical rule," Terry Goddard said.

He added that Jeffs showed an utter disregard for law enforcement and told his followers he is above the law.

Mormons disavow any connection to Jeffs and renounced polygamy more than 100 years ago.

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