Prosecutor Urges Judge to Let Jeffs Conviction Stand

Prosecutor Urges Judge to Let Jeffs Conviction Stand

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(AP Photo/Jud Burkett) ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- A prosecutor is urging a judge to let stand the guilty verdict in the rape-by-accomplice trial of a polygamous-sect leader.

Attorneys for Warren Jeffs are merely reciting a slanted version of the facts, Washington County prosecutor Brock Belnap said in response to the defense's request to toss the jury's decision.

Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, will be sentenced Tuesday for his role in the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin in 2001.

In September, he was found guilty of two counts of rape as an accomplice and faces a possible punishment of life in prison.

Prosecutors claim Jeffs, 51, used his authority to force Elissa Wall to marry and submit to sex with Allen Steed. The sect practices polygamy and arranged ceremonial marriages in communities on the Arizona-Utah border.

Jeffs' defense team recently filed documents seeking to have the verdict set aside. His attorneys told 5th District Judge James Shumate that performing a ceremony and urging a couple to stay together does not add up to rape.

"The state certainly is trying to demolish and destroy this church, and they've chosen criminal prosecution as their technique," Wally Bugden said.

In response, Belnap said Bugden has failed to meet the burden necessary to erase a jury's verdict.

"The defendant merely reargues points that have previously been rejected by the court and the jury. As such, the court should deny the motion," Belnap said in a filing last week.

Wall, now 21, was granted an FLDS divorce by Jeffs in 2004 after she became pregnant with another man's child. The AP does not typically name victims of sexual abuse, but Wall has made several public statements using her maiden name. She has declined to disclose her current legal name.

Steed, now 26, testified for Jeffs at trial -- and was charged with rape the day after the conviction.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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