Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs is protesting his conviction of rape as an accomplice, seeking to set aside a jury's guilty verdicts.
"A reasonable juror could not have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt from the state's purely circumstantial evidence that Jeffs encouraged another to rape Elissa Wall," defense attorney Wally Bugden wrote in a motion filed Friday in St. George's 5th District Court.
Jeffs' attorneys filed a motion to arrest judgment. Under Utah's rules of criminal procedure, it allows a defendant to make a motion prior to sentencing to stop the judgment if the facts do not constitute a public offense, if the defendant is mentally ill, or if there is another good cause. If the motion is granted, it could result in a new trial.
Jeffs was convicted by a jury of two counts of first-degree felony rape as an accomplice, accused of performing a marriage between then 14-year-old Elissa Wall and her 19-year-old cousin, Allen Steed.
In their 36-page argument to set aside the verdicts, defense attorneys recount many of the arguments they made during Jeffs' trial and suggest the jury speculated his role as an accomplice to rape. Bugden says Jeffs never arranged the marriage, but did perform it. Jeffs' statement of "multiply and replenish the earth," based on the Old Testament, does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jeffs encouraged Wall's husband to have sex with her against her will, Bugden wrote.
"The evidence is clear that Steed acted independently of any reasonable interpretation of Jeffs' counsel before or at the wedding ceremony," he said.
The text of the FLDS Marriage Covenant ceremony and other sermons were included to bolster those arguments.
When Wall complained about her marriage, Jeffs told her to go back and give herself "mind, body and soul" to her husband. Bugden claims Jeffs was unaware that she was ever being forced to have sex against her will, that Wall knew the FLDS culture taught that sex was only for procreation, and only if the wife invited it.
"Likewise, Jeffs' petition of stock patriarchal advice about remaining obedient and submissive does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he recklessly encouraged Steed to have intercourse without Ms. Wall's consent, or that he somehow commanded Ms. Wall to submit to Steed against her will," he wrote.
"Furthermore, Jeffs' teachings regarding no force in marriage, that a woman invites sexual relations and 'keeping sweet' are evidence that Jeffs did not recklessly contribute to rape."
Jeffs faces up to life in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for Nov. 20 in St. George.The FLDS leader also is facing criminal charges in Arizona, accusing him of performing more child-bride marriages. A federal grand jury in Salt Lake City also has indicted him on a charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, stemming from his time on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.