Key Witness Testifies in Case Against Polygamist

A young woman who says polygamist leader Warren Jeffs forced her to marry — and have sex — at age 14 offered dramatic testimony Tuesday in a courtroom in St. George, Utah.

Jeffs is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or FLDS Church. He's charged in Utah with two counts of "rape as an accomplice."

Tuesday's hearing was to determine whether the case will go to trial. It was the first time that Jeffs faced his accuser, the young woman who is the primary witness against him. NPR does not name alleged victims of sexual assaults.

She was 14, she told the court, when Jeffs ordered her into a "spiritual marriage" with her first cousin, a 19-year-old at the time, and then forced her to have sex with him. Such marriages are not legally recognized. Jeffs allegedly told the woman her salvation depended on her compliance.

In court, the young woman sobbed, cried and dabbed at tears as Jess watched her dispassionately. She described learning of her spiritual marriage, and said she was horrified and resisted. She also described the horror of her husband trying to consummate their marriage, which eventually he did.

The defense cross-examined Jess' accuser, showing photos of the couple smiling together. Defense lawyers also read from love notes her husband is said to have sent to the accuser. They also said that Jeffs gave the young woman religious advice and direction consistent with the tenets of his faith.

The hearing took place about 40 miles from the twin communities Jeffs and his group dominate. About 6,000 followers live in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Jeffs and some of his followers also face charges in Arizona.

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