ST. GEORGE An attorney for a man charged with raping his teenage bride says a new book may prevent him from receiving a fair trial.
Fundamentalist LDS Church member Allen Steed is the ex-husband of Elissa Wall, who wrote a book about her experiences as an unwilling bride to her 19-year-old cousin, and of her life in the FLDS church. Wall's book, "Stolen Innocence," was released Tuesday, just two days before Steed was to appear before Judge G. Rand Beacham for a review of his case.
The review hearing scheduled for Thursday was continued for at least another 60 days on the request of prosecutors and the defense, who have been working toward a plea agreement that must be approved by Wall. According to the motion to continue, there are "factors outside the direct control of the parties involved," which make it difficult to resolve certain issues.
Steed was charged with one count of rape the same day a jury found FLDS leader Warren Jeffs guilty of two counts of accomplice to rape for his role in conducting a wedding ceremony between the two teenage cousins. Jeffs is serving two consecutive sentences of five years to life in prison.
Prosecutors argued that Jeffs ignored Wall's objections to the arranged marriage and that he could have stopped it. Steed testified on behalf of Jeffs during the trial, saying although he did not seek out the marriage to Wall, he grew to love her and tried to be a good husband.
Attorney Jim Bradshaw, who represents Steed, said Wednesday he is concerned that his client's right to a fair trial has been compromised by Wall's book and extensive publicity tour.
"While the book has raised great concerns about obtaining a fair trial, the issues are multiplied by the apparent book promotion tour that is reported to include a long string of appearances on national television programs," Bradshaw wrote in a May 8 letter to deputy Washington County attorney Brian Filter, who is prosecuting Steed. Wall appeared Wednesday on Oprah Winfrey's television show.
"Of particular concern was a purported reenactment of the events of this case for the television show '20/20,' filmed on location in the Hildale area," Bradshaw's letter continues, which was also sent to Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap and Wall's attorney, Roger Hoole. "I think we can anticipate that these media events as well as the book will consistently include a narrative by her in which she recounts her version of the facts of our pending case."
Belnap said Wednesday that he believes Steed will get a fair trial when the time comes.
"I feel personally confidant that we'll be able to seat a fair jury and that Washington County jurors can be fair and unbiased," Belnap said, noting the same argument was raised during Jeffs' trial.
Bradshaw raised the specter of that trial in his letter, noting that if Wall had written her book and entertained a publicity tour before Jeffs' trial began, "there would have been great outrage about her compromising the integrity of that process.
"Mr. Steed is entitled to no less justice because your office opted to not proceed against him until after the Jeffs trial was completed," Bradshaw writes.
Wall also filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the FLDS church and Jeffs, who is facing additional charges of sexual misconduct and incest in an Arizona court. Wall is a witness in one of those cases.Attorneys for Jeffs have asked a judge to dismiss the incest charges. A hearing on the matter is scheduled in a Mohave County, Ariz., court on Friday.
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