A woman who was forced by Warren Jeffs to marry her cousin when she wast just 14-years-old has been awarded $2.75 million from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) communal property trust, United Effort Plan Trust. Elissa Wall sued the FLDS trust, which is now managed by the state of Utah, in a bid to hold leaders of the church accountable for abuse that underage girls experienced at the hands of Warren Jeffs. Wall originally requested $40 million after she says she was forced into marriage with her cousin as a teen bride; however, on Friday, Elissa Wall agreed to a settlement that provided her $1.5 million in cash and $1.25 million in property.
The Daily Mail reports that Elissa Wall was forced to marry her 19-year-old cousin in 2001 at the urging of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. At the time of her marriage, Elissa was just 14-years-old and living at the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints compound along the Utah-Arizona border. The compound was managed by polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs, who used his power to abuse young women and force them into marriage at an early age.
Jeffs was eventually arrested and convicted of sexually abusing numerous underage girls and is serving a life sentence for his abuses of power. Elissa Wall was one of the women who helped convict Jeffs after she revealed that he was an accomplice in her 2007 rape. Fox 13 notes that Elissa is just one of many women who have accused Jeffs of abusing young women who lived on the FLDS compound. However, she has been one of the most vocal regarding her hopes for the compound’s future.
Wall says that she hopes to help pave the way for the community to be rebuilt without the control of sect leaders. She says the focus of the FLDS community should be on family, friendship and growth, “not the tall fences and secrecy” that shrouds the complex. Wall’s attorney, Alan Mortensen, says that the case is pivotal for holding those in power accountable for their actions.
“Ms. Wall brought his case to hold responsible those in power who used their position to perpetrate abuse. She has experienced firsthand how the UEP Trust was used by Warren Jeffs to hurt families like hers and others. Ms. Wall has been willing to stand up, be brave, and fight for change within the FLDS communities.”
In addition to the abuse charges that have been brought to light, thanks in part to Wall’s testimony, she is also helping authorities wager charges of food stamp fraud and Utah child labor law violations. The settlement with the United Effort Plan Trust, which controls homes and property in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, was sued by Wall as she claims the trust was improperly managed by Jeffs and the FLDS top leaders. After the allegations were determined to be true, the trust was taken over by the state of Utah and managed on behalf of the community.
The settlement is significant as it may pave the way for future lawsuits against the trust to be made by other FLDS victims of abuse. Though the UEP trust initially fought the lawsuit in court, they claim that both they and Wall have the same intentions for the communities controlled by the trust noting that they want to be used as a “force of good.”
“Although the UEP Trust may have been used as a tool of control by the FLDS Church and Warren Jeffs in days past, those days are over. The Board of Trustees has taken great strides to assure that the UEP Trust is now a force for good.”
[Image via Facebook/ Elissa Wall]