A Utah judge ordered imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist LDS Church Tuesday to pay former child bride Elissa Wall $16 million in general and punitive damages, concluding a case first filed in Washington County in 2005.
Third District Judge Keith Kelly wrote that Jeffs had 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.”
According to court documents, neither Jeffs nor the FLDS church offered a defense to Wall’s claims that she had been forced to marry an adult church member when she was 14 years old. She was then required by Jeffs and the FLDS Church to “live together as husband and wife” with the man and “to produce children.” That man, Allen Steed, was 19 at the time of the forced marriage and also Wall’s cousin.
Kelly wrote that “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.”
For presiding over the illegal marriage, Jeffs was convicted in 2007 as an accomplice to rape, but the case was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court in 2010 in a ruling that the instructions given to the jury during his prosecution were faulty.
Jeffs is currently in a Texas prison, serving a life sentence plus 20 years following his conviction in 2011 on two counts of child sexual assault.
In determining damages, Kelly wrote that the court is entitled to consider the “wealth or financial condition of the defendants” along with other factors. Court documents note that, as of two years ago, the “alter ego of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS Church,” the UEP Trust, was worth more than $110 million.
Wall wrote about her experiences in a 2008 book, “Stolen Innocence.”