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Spurned husband testifies for polygamist 'prophet'

  • Story Highlights
  • Allen Steed says he didn't force sex on 14-year-old bride
  • Warren Jeffs, called the "Prophet" by followers, leads the polygamous FLDS
  • Trial focuses on Jeffs' alleged practice of arranging marriages to young girls
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From Amanda Townsend and Gary Tuchman
CNN
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ST. GEORGE, Utah (CNN) -- The spurned husband whose arranged marriage is at the center of the rape-accomplice charges against polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs took the witness stand to defend his prophet on Wednesday.

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Allen Steed stood as he testified, saying he felt more comfortable that way.

Allen Steed, 26, told the jury he did everything he could think of to make his 2001 marriage to a 14-year-old cousin work. That included seeking the advice of Jeffs, then second-in-command of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS.

He said his bride, known in court as Jane Doe, was affectionate to him in private, but cold in public. He denied that he or Jeffs had forced sex on his bride, although he did acknowledge exposing himself to her in a park and being surprised when she took offense.

"I could tell by her actions that she was surprised and I offended her." At that point, Jane Doe, her husband and one of her lawyers got up and walked out of the courtroom.

Jeffs had counseled him, Steed said, telling him to take things slowly.

"He told me that I had to learn to get her to love me to the point that she would obey me because she loved me," Steed, who was 19 when he wed Jane Doe, told the jury.

"It was a rough and rocky road, then we learned to love one another. I had to learn to love her, and she had to learn how to love me," he said. "And I'm sure it wasn't easy, knowing now what I didn't know then."

The defense rested after Steed's testimony. One redirect witness is scheduled to testify, and closing arguments are set for Friday.

Steed contradicted Jane Doe's testimony about their first sexual encounter, several weeks after the wedding, in which she said she resisted him.

"She woke me up and asked if I cared about her. She rolled up close to me asked me to scratch her back and one thing led to the next," Steed said. "I felt like she was ready to go forward."

Steed has not been charged with any crime in the case. Instead, the charges focus on the allegation that Jeffs used his influence as a religious leader to coerce a 14-year-old girl into a marriage she did not want.

In 2004, the teenager left Steed and the sect after she became pregnant with another man's child, according to The Associated Press.

Steed followed nine other FLDS members to the stand as defense attorneys worked to give jurors a different view of Jeffs and life in the FLDS from what prosecutors presented.

Steed was so soft-spoken that attorneys repeatedly prompted him to speak up. Finally, Steed asked to stand while he testified, saying he felt more comfortable that way.

He said his marriage was at times difficult, and his bride headstrong. He acknowledged that at the time of his marriage his knowledge of sex was rudimentary and his communications skills weren't the best.

He also acknowledged that he did not wear the pants in the family. "I tried to make decisions with wisdom and love, and a lot of times I didn't voice my decision, knowing there would be opposition.," he said. "If she decided to do something I didn't want her to do, she would do it anyway."

Although his wife was avoiding him and he was hearing rumors she was seeing someone else, he never thought to ask to be released from the marriage, Steed said.

Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday after calling just three witnesses -- the accuser and two of her sisters. The case against Jeffs also relies on audiotapes 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' »

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 Steed, 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.

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.

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

Ex-followers say he is a tyrant who performs marriages of older men 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.

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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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