November 22, 2006
ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- A woman who claims she was forced to marry her cousin when she was 14 called it the "darkest time of my entire life."
The woman, now 20, told a judge Tuesday that she reluctantly gave her new husband a "peck" before locking herself in a bathroom.
The ceremony at a Nevada motel in 2001 was "one of the most painful things I've ever been through. I just want to move on with my life and forget it happened," she testified.
She is the key witness in the case against Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Jeffs, 50, is charged with two counts of rape as an accomplice for his suspected role in arranging the marriage between her and her 19-year-old first cousin.
The woman was testifying at a hearing for the judge to decide whether there is probable cause to send Jeffs to trial.
In court documents, prosecutors say the bride, identified as Jane Doe No. 4, objected to the marriage and later begged to be released.
The Associated Press does not identify victims of sexual assault.
She said she refused to say "I do," take her groom's hand or kiss him. Finally, she relented, submitting to a "peck" and then locking herself in the bathroom.
"I felt completely trapped and defeated," she said.
Prosecutors completed their case Tuesday, and District Judge James Shumate said the preliminary hearing would resume December 14.
Jeffs' defense team, which has said he is being persecuted for his religious beliefs, plans to call two witnesses, including the woman's current husband.
Looking gaunt and pale in a dark gray suit, Jeffs smiled slightly throughout most of the hearing, which included testimony from two of the woman's sisters.
Jeffs' attorneys introduced photos of his accuser and her ex-husband in which they appear to be a smiling, laughing couple. The lawyers got her to acknowledge Jeffs never explicitly ordered her to have sex with her new husband.
Defense attorney Tara L. Isaacson also introduced sweetheart notes the couple had traded. She quoted from the accuser's journal in which she expressed enthusiasm about being singled out for marriage.
The woman testified that the journal entry was written before she learned the identity of her partner.
"Was every day with [the husband] miserable?" Isaacson asked.
"Many of them were," the woman answered.
The FLDS church, which is based in two small communities on the Utah-Arizona border and has an estimated 10,000 members, practices polygamy and represents itself as an offshoot of the mainstream Mormon church, based in Salt Lake City.
Congregants revere Jeffs as a prophet and are taught to be obedient, including marrying at his behest.
The Mormons disavow any connection and renounced polygamy in 1890 as a condition of statehood.
Raised in the FLDS faith since birth, Jeffs' accuser said she felt a heavy responsibility to "the entire community" in the days leading to the marriage ceremony.
"I was scared. I didn't have any place to go," said the woman, who has left the church and is married to a different man. "I felt that if I didn't do what I was told, I would forever pay the consequences."
Security at the courthouse was tight Tuesday, with police sharpshooters posted on the red rock hills that ring the building. No vehicles were allowed to park on the street.