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Followers testify for their 'Prophet'

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Followers take stand for Warren Jeffs' defense
  • Jeffs leads the polygamous FLDS
  • He is charged with two counts of being an accomplice to rape
  • Charges stem from alleged practice of arranging marriages to young girls
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From Amanda Townsend
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ST. GEORGE, Utah (CNN) -- Followers of polygamist "prophet" Warren Jeffs began testifying in his defense Tuesday after prosecutors rested their case in the sect leader's rape-accomplice trial.


FLDS leader Warren Jeffs watches his lawyers question a witness in court on Monday.

A man and a woman each told the jury that women in the sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, have the right to refuse their husbands' advances.

Jennie Pitkin, 26, said Jeffs even released her from her marriage after her husband continued to "touch" her against her wishes.

Pitkin said she was "placed" in a marriage at her request at age 17. After having five children, she told her husband she wanted a "time out," she said. When he didn't listen, she said she prayed, and researched FLDS teachings until she found a February 14, 1999, sermon by Jeffs.

"A man should only have those maritial relations with a wife if she invites it," Jeffs said in the sermon, according to testimony. It was only then, she said, that "I realized I'm supposed to be in charge."

The young woman's testimony differed sharply from accounts from the three prosecution witnesses -- a reluctant child bride and two of her sisters.

Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday against Jeffs, who is accused of being an accomplice to rape for allegedly coercing the 14-year-old follower into a marriage she did not want.

They also played a tape of another church leader's sermon warning that authorities were targeting the sect and describing each case as a "battle."

The case against Jeffs also relies on audio tapes of his sermons and lectures, as well as excepts of a book of teachings called "In Light and Truth." Hear the teachings of the 'Prophet' »

Defense attorneys argued that the charges should be dismissed because prosecutors did not prove there was a rape. But Judge James Shumate denied the motion and the defense will begin its presentation Tuesday afternoon.

The list of potential defense witnesses includes dozens of names, but not all of them are likely to be called. Almost all are loyal followers of Jeffs, who leads the FLDS as its "prophet."

The sect splintered from the Mormon church more than a century ago over the practice of polygamy. The Mormon church disavows polygamy and the FLDS.

The reluctant bride and her two sisters described how she was forced into an arranged marriage with a 19-year-old cousin she did not like.

She said she protested that she was not ready for marriage, knew nothing about sex, and felt dirty, used and trapped after the marriage was consummated.

Her pleas to church leaders were ignored and Jeffs told her to submit "mind, body and soul" to her new husband, the young woman, now 21, told the jury.

Her sisters testified that most of the women in the family also opposed the marriage but were powerless to stop it.

Rebecca Musser, who is 10 years older than her sister, was a plural wife of the sect's late prophet, Rulon Jeffs. He was Warren Jeff's father.

She said her sister's plea to Rulon Jeffs was ignored, and that Warren Jeffs pushed for the union.

The women would have faced dire social consequences, perhaps even banishment, if they spoke up, Musser said.

"We couldn't stop this from happening," she said. A heated exchange followed when defense attorney Walter Bugden suggested under cross-examination that the marriage could have been stopped.

"I couldn't stop it," she insisted. "If I was to call and to say I don't agree with this, I could have been sent away from my family."

She acknowledged during the exchange that she helped decorate her sister's bedroom as a "honeymoon hideout," placing chocolates, cookies and a congratulatory poster on the new queen-sized bed.

"You did not believe when you were decorating the room . . . that you were encouraging the rape of your sister?" Bugden asked.

"Not in those words, no," she said.

All three sisters testified about their upbringing in the church, which emphasized that girls and women should "keep sweet" and submit to the wishes of their husbands and church leaders.

"To be sweet is to suffer silently regardless of what concerns you might have," Musser explained. "It was extreme wickedness to resist in any way -- even in the bedroom."

Musser said she was married at age 19 to prophet Rulon Jeffs, who was in his 80s. Her sister's marriage was arranged by Fred Jessop, the church's bishop and third-ranking leader. He married the girls' mother after their father was ex-communicated from the FLDS.

Jessop's request was honored because of his standing in the church, she said

Jane Doe, as the reluctant bride is known in court, told the jury she avoided having sex with her new husband for weeks by hiding in her mother's bedroom. (The three sisters have different surnames.)

Warren Jeffs has led the FLDS since his father's death in 2002. Followers see him as a prophet who received messages from God and holds the key to their salvation.

Ex-followers say he is a tyrant who performs marriages to young girls, exiles dissenters and reassigns their families to loyalists, and has thrown out hundreds of boys and young men to lessen competition for brides.

The former followers also have said Jeffs teaches that a man must have at least three wives to get into heaven. Women are to obey their husbands, who hold the key to eternal salvation.


If convicted of the rape-accomplice charges, Jeffs faces a lengthy prison sentence.

Polygamy, a practice central to FLDS religious beliefs, is not an issue in the case because Jane Doe's marriage to her cousin was monogamous. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day SaintsWarren Jeffs

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