A defense attorney picked over the testimony of a key witness in the trial of a polygamous-sect leader Monday, looking for discrepancies in her story about being under overwhelming pressure to marry an older cousin when she was 14.
Prosecutors contend Warren Jeffs, 51, used his influence to push the girl into a ceremonial marriage with her 19-year-old cousin.
Under cross-examination the bride, now 21, said she never told her mother about unwanted sex during the marriage of more than three years. “I never told anyone,” she said.
Defense attorney Tara Isaacson challenged the claim that the woman had sex under duress.
“Isn’t it true you said you had to sugar-up the situation to get things you wanted?” Isaacson asked.
In response, the woman said she began to use sex to extract privileges from her husband, including money, visits to see family and other trips.
Two counts of rape as an accomplice
Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with two counts of rape as an accomplice.
Jurors last week heard two days of emotional testimony from the woman, who said she sobbed through the wedding in a Nevada motel and had to be coaxed by Jeffs and her mother when asked to say “I do.” The Associated Press is not identifying the woman because she is alleging sexual abuse.
Isaacson portrayed the older cousin as a loving husband who was trying to make the marriage work, giving his teen bride love notes and flowers. He has not been charged.
In photos from the wedding and the honeymoon, the bride is smiling with her arms around the man whom she has referred to as a “devil with a pitchfork.”
Isaacson noted a journal entry from 2001 in which the woman wrote about “pleading with the Lord” to place her with a good man who could lead her in the principles of the FLDS faith.
In counseling her about marriage, Jeffs never specifically directed her to have “sex” with her husband, the woman testified. She said FLDS members referred to it as “man-wife relations.”
Jeffs had encouraged her to pray with her husband, spend time with him and love him, she said.
Woman told to 'do your duty'
When the trial began last week, she recalled her attempts to avoid sex for weeks but said she could no longer deny her husband when he told her it was “time for you to be a wife and do your duty.” Wanting to die, she said she subsequently swallowed two bottles of over-the-counter pain reliever.
She left her marriage and the FLDS church in 2004 after becoming pregnant with another man’s child.
Jeffs has been president of the church since 2002. Followers see him as a prophet who communicates with God and holds dominion over their salvation. Ex-church members say he reigns with an iron fist, demanding perfect obedience from followers.
If convicted of the charges, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
In 2005, before speaking to police, the woman filed a civil lawsuit against Jeffs, seeking money and property from a church-held trust for pain and suffering from her marriage.
Polygamy, a practice central to FLDS religious beliefs, is not an issue in the case because the marriage between the cousins was monogamous.
The Mormon church, the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, abandoned polygamy in 1890 as a condition of statehood and excommunicates members who engage in the practice.