ST. GEORGE, Utah – Jurors returned to the courthouse Monday for their first full day of deliberations in a case that could send the leader of a polygamous sect to prison for the rest of his life.
After instructions and closing arguments, the jury met for about two hours Friday.
Warren Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with rape as an accomplice for his role in the ceremonial marriage of a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
Washington County prosecutors contend Jeffs used his authority as the girl's spiritual leader to force marriage and sex over her repeated objections. In 2001, he was No. 2 in the FLDS hierarchy behind his father, who is now deceased.
Over five days of testimony, widely different versions of the relationship — and Jeffs' influence — were presented by the woman, now 21, and her former husband, Allen Steed, 26.
She said she pleaded with church leaders to hold off the marriage because of her age but was told her "heart was in the wrong place." She said she sobbed through the ceremony in a Nevada motel and had to be coaxed to say "I do" and kiss Steed.
Steed, however, said the young bride didn't cry or hesitate to kiss him. He said she initiated sex within weeks of the ceremony, waking him after he fell asleep in his clothes. He also insisted he never forced her to do anything.
Steed described Jeffs as a caring counselor who recommended kindness, patience and prayer during rocky periods of their 3 1/2-year relationship.
Under Utah law, a 14-year-old can consent to sex in some circumstances. But sex is not considered consensual if a person under 18 is enticed by someone at least three years older.
A person can also be guilty of rape if he or she holds a position of "special trust" over someone under 18. In his closing argument, prosecutor Brock Belnap said Jeffs filled that role as church leader.
The woman left the marriage and the FLDS church in 2004.
The church, which broke away from the mainstream Mormon church, practices polygamy and arranged marriage. It has roughly 10,000 members in the twin towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.