Warren Jeffs, the polygamous sect leader, has been ordered to pay a total of $16 million dollars to a woman that he pressured to marry her cousin when she was 14-years-old, according to Time magazine.
On Tuesday, Elissa Wall, a former child bride within the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was awarded $4 million in damages and $12 million in punitive damages. The $16 million ordered by a Utah judge arrives 12 years after she filed the initial lawsuit, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.
The lawsuit accused Jeffs of arranging her marriage in 2001 to her 19-year-old cousin, Allen Steed. In addition to the marriage, it was reported that Jeff’s pressured the couple to have children. Following the events, Wall went on to have miscarriages and a stillbirth.
Keith Kelly, a Utah judge, said the conduct of Jeffs “was so extreme that it went beyond all possible bounds of decency and is regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society,” as per Fox 13.
Wall’s testimony about her marriage helped convict Jeffs of being an accomplice to rape. The verdict was overturned on a technicality, but he’s now serving a life prison sentence for sexually assaulting two girls he married as plural wives, according to the Deseret News.
In 2011, Allen Steed, who was 19-years-old when he married Wall, pleaded guilty to solemnization of a prohibited marriage and pleaded no contest to unlawful sexual activity with a minor. According to the Deseret News, he received 30 days in jail, three years of probation, and was ordered to pay a total of $10,000.
Warren Jeffs has been incarcerated since 2006 and currently serving life in prison.
Alan Mortensen, an attorney who represented Walls in the lawsuit, said the ruling allows them to investigate the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ bank accounts and property, in addition to other assets across North America. The decision was suggested, “so the church feels the pain of what their doctrine has been as to the rape of young girls.”
Elissa said she was instructed by Jeffs and other family members (both before and after she was married) to obey the prophet and her husband.
After the initial hearing, Elissa spoke out against Jeff’s and the damage he has done to her in her adult life and to the lives of many others.
“Allen will truly never understand the magnitude of the scars that I will carry for the rest of my life… And Warren Jeffs will never understand the scars and the ways that he has destroyed thousands of people’s lives, including mine.”
Wall has major plans for the money she won. Elissa plans to use the money to help people leaving the group. Many in the group are based along the Utah-Arizona border and have a compound in South Dakota.
“I can now close these chapters in my life and focus on building a better future for myself and my children.”
In 2016, Wall agreed to a $2.75 million settlement with the group’s communal property trust, but her case against Jeffs and the group continued. Neither Jeffs nor his group got a lawyer or defended themselves in the case.
Lyle Jeffs, a former leader of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who has been accused of large-scale food stamp fraud and money laundering, was arrested by the FBI after nearly a year on the run, according to NPR. A year after his escape, Jeffs’ brother was caught in June.
During the manhunt, the FBI offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. Jeffs was found in South Dakota and was promptly arrested, as per the FBI. The FBI believes Lyle used olive oil to slide a GPS tracker off his ankle, according to the Deseret News.
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