Just when you thought the story of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS couldn't be any more stomach-turning, new and still more horrible details come to light. The "prophet," who remains incarcerated for molesting his very young "brides," is now facing new allegations of sexual abuse, via a lawsuit by one of his alleged victims. Worse, she cites numerous co-conspirators, including two of his brothers, in a scheme to ritually abuse girls as young as eight.
A new lawsuit accuses Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs and others in the church of ritualistic sex abuse involving girls as young as eight years old.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in state court by a 21-year-old woman only identified as "R.H.," levels allegations of abuse against Warren Jeffs, his brothers Lyle Jeffs and Seth Jeffs; and former FLDS leader Wendell Nielsen of sex abuse. It also goes after the FLDS Church and the court-controlled real-estate holdings arm, the United Effort Plan Trust.
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"Systemic sex abuse at the hands of Warren Jeffs and other leaders of the FLDS Church from the age of eight until the age of 14," her attorney, Alan Mortensen, told FOX 13 in an interview Wednesday.
The details, which can be read in court documents, are hair-raising.
As part of their FLDS beliefs, sex between underage girls and priesthood leaders took place, the lawsuit alleges, noting that after President Rulon T. Jeffs suffered a stroke in August 1998, much of his power and authority was delegated to his son, Warren S. Jeffs, who began a new practice involving ritualistic sexual intercourse with young girls in the FLDS Temple and other FLDS properties.
“Sex with girls, ages eight to 14 years old, was initiated by Warren Jeffs, along with leadership of UEP Trust and the FLDS Church, including the Twelve Apostles of the Church engaging in and witnessing the sexual relations between Warren S. Jeffs, Lyle Jeffs, Seth Jeffs and Wendell LeRoy Nielsen and other John Does viewing, watching, taping, participating in and documenting these sexual encounters with underage girls.”
The lawsuit’s plaintiff — a 21-year-old woman identified as R.H. — alleges she was given a number by which she was known during these religious rituals and she was never called by name, but only by number.
“This horrific religious doctrine and religious rituals as performed on plaintiff consisted of plaintiff, beginning at the age of 8, having a bag placed over her head, led out of her house by representatives of the defendants, placed in a vehicle and being driven to an unknown location,” according to the lawsuit.
The indignities continued even after R.H. was too old for these pedophilic rituals.
The ritual rape continued until she was 12 years old, but the abuse didn’t end there, she says. At the age of 14, she was required to be a witness and “scribe” to the rituals with other young girls and the defendants, and document the sex acts along with the number of the victim, according to the lawsuit.
When she was 16, the plaintiff attended “Ladies Class,” where FLDS women would learn how to be a good wife. While at “Ladies Class,” Lyle Jeffs, Warren’s brother and a member of the FLDS “priesthood,” would remove her from the class and take her to his soundproof office to rape her, in the guise of furthering her “Ladies Class” education, the lawsuit alleges.
As outrageous as these claims may seem, they hearken back to things we learned when Jeffs was convicted in Texas, where the jury heard recordings similar to those described in this filing. Also documented was Jeffs's heavily fortified "rape room," in his repossessed Hildale compound, seen here and here. R.H.'s attorneys claim that they will be relying heavily on evidence obtained by the State of Texas from their successful prosecution of Warren Jeffs and seizure of the Yearning for Zion Ranch.
Whether Warren Jeffs and his associates will mount a defense is an open question. Another recent lawsuit resulted in a default judgment, garnering plaintiff Elissa Wall $16,000,000 in damages.
Neither Jeffs nor the FLDS church obtained a lawyer or defended themselves against Wall’s lawsuit, which claimed that she had been forced to marry her 19-year-old cousin, Allen Steed, when she was 14 years old, according to court documents. She was then required by Jeffs and the FLDS church to fulfill her religious duties by having sex with her husband and “to produce children.” Wall went on to have miscarriages and a stillbirth.
Judge Kelly wrote that Jeffs had exercised “absolute control, power and authority” over Wall’s life “so that he could require her, as a young girl, to enter into an unlawful spiritual marriage. … The conduct of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS Church, as alleged herein, was outrageous and intolerable in that it offended the generally accepted standards of decency and morality.”
The wealth and property of the FLDS is being carved up and served to its victims and apostates. And while the remaining FLDS faithful reject many of the supports offered — even making themselves homeless in the process — the church leadership has also stolen the food out of their mouths. As discussed, a generous deal was cut with most of the leaders who had been charged in the food stamp fraud case, which included instruction in proper use of SNAP benefits. Lyle Jeffs, whose almost comical game of "Where's Waldo" came to an embarrassing end last June, also bore the brunt of the legal fallout. Slipping his ankle monitor with olive oil turned out to be not so terribly clever, as he has now been sentenced to nearly five years in prison, 12 months of which are for his failure to appear in court.
His substantial sentence, though, also sends a message to the FLDS faithful, whose letters demonstrated to U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart a disturbing unconsciousness of wrongdoing.
Stewart referred to letters he received in support of Jeffs, and which are not part of the public court record. Stewart then apparently summarized what some said.
“‘It was persecution of the worst kind,’ ” Stewart said. “ ‘The man has done nothing wrong, and what the community as a whole did was not a mistake.’
“And that troubles me,” Stewart said, speaking for himself, “because it could happen again. The effect has not been felt by the community.”
Judge Stewart, it appears, agreed with Prosecutor Rob Lund, that Lyle Jeffs's sentence needed to make a broader point to his community.
Lyle and Warren Jeffs presided over a “culture of corruption” in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., Lund said.
“This case cries out for a message to that community,” Lund told Stewart. “They must obey the law.”
Nearly seven years after his conviction in Texas, Warren Jeffs's victims and the criminal justice system are still wrestling with the culture of lawlessness and depravity he built. One horrible story after another is shared by a growing roster of victims, victims who include his own family members. Recently his daughter Rachel Jeffs shared with Megan Kelly that she was also sexually abused by Jeffs starting when she was eight years old.
Even Canadian authorities have to wrestle with the legal questions raised by the FLDS stronghold of Bountiful. Last year's conviction of the Blackmores, who delivered their 13-year-old daughter to their "prophet" in Utah, was an arguably small and belated step in the right direction.
As officials try to tighten the screws on FLDS leaders, life is gradually being normalized for the church's apostates. Birth certificates are being issued for children whose births were shrouded in secrecy. Communities are rebuilding among the formerly disenfranchised.
But it is the women, many of whom suffered horrible abuses, who are the real game-changers. These women are fighting back hard, divesting the church of its assets, and even seizing political power.
When Donia Jessop fled the cult-like environment of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Hildale, Utah, she never thought she would return—let alone lead a movement to successfully become the town's first female mayor and the first to hold power without the church's support.
Jessop's historic victory as mayor was announced late Wednesday, and she now leads the long journey of rebuilding a town on the Utah-Arizona border that has never seen a female mayor or leader not appointed by the church. The polygamous sect of the fundamentalist church in Hildale — which was disowned by Mormon Latter-Day Saints — was made notorious by its former leader and convicted sexual predator, Warren Jeffs, who molested girls and forced minors to marry men twice their age. The town is still recovering from the disbanded cult's patriarchal control, making Jessop's victory striking.