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Associated Press
St. George, Utah – A judge on Tuesday refused to acquit a polygamist sect leader charged with sex crimes in the arranged marriage of a 14-year old girl to her older cousin, rejecting the defense’s claims that Utah prosecutors had failed to make their case.
The motion by Warren Jeffs’ lawyers came after prosecutors rested their case against the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a radical Mormon splinter group whose members view Jeffs as a prophet who communicates with God and holds dominion over their salvation.
Capping the fourth day of the trial, prosecutors played a 30-minute sermon for jurors in which Jeffs and fellow church member Sam Barlow addressed such ceremonial marriages involving minors.
Jeffs, 51, president of the FLDS church, is charged with two felony counts of rape as an accomplice in southern Utah’s 5th District Court. Authorities maintain he used his influence to push the 14-year-old girl into a ceremonial marriage with her 19-year-old cousin in 2001 and force her to have sex.
Prosecutors called just three witnesses: the woman, who now is 21, and two sisters.
On the 2002 tape, Jeffs said the sect’s principles were under attack by Utah and Arizona authorities.
Barlow, a former marshal in Colorado City, Arizona, a small community on the Utah-Arizona state line dominated by members of the sect, talked on the tape about pressure from authorities.
“We are born to this conflict,” Barlow said. “We cannot shirk it or turn away from it for a moment.”
The woman, now 21, said under cross-examination Monday that she never told her mother about unwanted sex during the marriage of more than three years. “I never told anyone,” she said.
Defense attorney Tara Isaacson challenged the claim that the woman had sex under duress.
“Isn’t it true you said you had to sugar-up the situation to get things you wanted?” Isaacson asked.
The woman replied that she began to use sex to extract privileges from her husband, including money, visits to see family and other trips.
Jeffs’ lawyers called for an acquittal, saying prosecutors failed to show that Jeffs was on notice that the girl felt she was being raped.
Fifth District Judge James Shumate denied the motion, and Jeffs’ attorneys planned to begin calling witnesses.
Jeffs has been president of the church since 2002. He was a fugitive for nearly two years and was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list when he was arrested during a traffic stop outside Las Vegas in August 2006. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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