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FLDS man pleads guilty to sex charges in marriage to his cousin

Published: Sunday, Feb. 20 2011 11:07 a.m. MST

Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap, left, looks on as Elissa Wall answers questions outside the courthouse.

Jud Burkett, Associated Press

ST. GEORGE — A man charged with rape following his "spiritual marriage" to a 14-year-old cousin pleaded guilty to reduced charges Friday and was sentenced to probation and a month in jail.

Allen Glade Steed, 29, who was originally facing a single charge of first-degree felony rape, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of solemnization of a prohibited marriage, and entered a plea in abeyance to a second charge of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. Both are third-degree felonies.

After entering his plea, Steed was immediately sentenced. Fifth District Judge G. Rand Beacham ordered him to serve three years of probation, spend 30 days in jail and pay two $5,000 fines.

Because Steed entered a plea in abeyance to the charge of unlawful sex with a minor, the charge will eventually be dismissed if he complies with all the terms of his probation.

"This is a good day," said Elissa Wall, who Steed married in 2001 when she was just 14. "I'm grateful for where we're at."

That marriage led to the prosecution and conviction of Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist LDS Church, who presided over the marriage and advised the girl to give herself "mind, body and soul and obey without question," according to court documents. Wall, who is now an adult, testified that she had expressed concerns before the union, stating that she felt she was too young for marriage and that she wished to marry someone other than her cousin.

She said Jeffs and other family members told her before her marriage, and after, to obey the prophet and her husband.

"Allen will truly never understand the magnitude of the scars that I will carry for the rest of my life," Wall said after the hearing. "And Warren Jeffs will never understand the scars and the ways that he has destroyed thousands of people's lives, including mine."

Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap said he reached a settlement with Steed "in recognition of the unique difference between Allen Steed and Warren Jeffs in their level of moral culpability."

"It was a recognition of the control that Warren had over Allen and the fact that Allen wouldn't have been in this relationship if it weren't for Warren Jeffs," he said.

Wall said she understands that Steed was just following what he had been taught to do.

"Yes, I do believe Allen in many ways is a victim of Warren and his power and his control," she said. "That was the only environment he knew also. He was cultured and created to become what he was."

"He's very relieved to put this chapter behind him," Steed's attorney, Jim Bradshaw, said of his client. "I think its a resolution that all sides agreed was fair."

Jeffs, the leader of the Utah-based polygamous sect, was sentenced to two consecutive prison terms of five years to life in prison on two counts of accomplice to rape for presiding over the spiritual marriage of Wall and Steed, who was 19 years old at the time.

Jeffs' conviction, however, was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court in July of 2010 on the grounds that a jury instruction erroneously focused the jury on Jeffs' relationship with Wall rather than Steed's relationship with the girl. The trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that Jeffs could not be found guilty as an accomplice to rape unless Jeffs specifically intended for Steed to have non-consensual sex with Wall.

Belnap said his office has not yet determined if it will re-try Jeffs' case. Jeffs has since been extradited to Texas to face various charges there.

"What we ultimately end up doing, we don't know yet," he said Friday. "It could depend on what happens in Texas."

Wall said it was difficult to see Steed again, but she is pleased that the case is now resolved. "I feel like I can truly close it and move forward," she said.

In Texas, Jeffs faces charges of bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and assault for incidents involving underage girls at the church's YFZ Ranch near Eldorado. The charges stem from information gleaned from records seized during a raid in April 2008.

"I'm sure he will get what he deserves," Wall said of Jeffs. "I'm sure he will be held accountable."

e-mail: emorgan@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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