Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday against a polygamous-sect leader charged with sex crimes in the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old girl and her older cousin.
Warren Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is accused of using his influence to push the girl into a marriage with her 19-year-old cousin in 2001 and forcing her to have unwanted sex. The 51-year-old is charged with two counts of rape as an accomplice.
Jeffs’ lawyers began calling witnesses later Tuesday after the end of the prosecution presentation.
Before resting their case, prosecutors played a 30-minute sermon for jurors in which Jeffs and fellow church member Sam Barlow addressed such ceremonial marriages involving minors.
On the 2002 tape, Jeffs said the sect’s principles were under attack by Utah and Arizona authorities.
Barlow, a former marshal in Colorado City, Ariz., a small community on the Utah-Arizona state line dominated by members of the sect, talked on the tape about pressure from authorities.
“We are born to this conflict,” Barlow said. “We cannot shirk it or turn away from it for a moment.”
Bride used sex for privileges
The bride, now 21, said under cross-examination Monday that 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.
The woman replied that she began to use sex to extract privileges from her husband, including money, visits to see family and other trips.
The girl left her marriage and the FLDS church in 2004 after becoming pregnant with another man’s child. The Associated Press generally does not identify people alleging sexual abuse.
Followers see Jeffs as a prophet
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.
The FLDS church practices polygamy and represents itself as an offshoot of the mainstream Mormon church, based in Salt Lake City. The Mormons, however, disavow any connection and renounced polygamy in 1890 as a condition of statehood.