ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) — The husband of a woman who says the leader of a polygamous sect forced the two cousins to marry when she was 14 said yesterday that he never forced himself on the teen bride.
He also said that he was a patient, loving husband who wanted to make the relationship work — and that she was the one who initiated sex.
The testimony came during the trial of Warren Jeffs, 51, who is president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Prosecutors say he used his iron-fisted influence to force her into sex and marriage with her cousin in 2001.
At times breaking into tears, the man spoke softly as he told jurors how his cousin approached him after he fell asleep in his clothes after a 12-hour day at work. During his testimony, the woman, who is now 21, ran from the courtroom.
She woke me up and asked me if I cared about her and loved her,” he testified. I told her that I did. She rolled up close to me and asked me to scratch her back. … I felt like she was ready to go forward.
Defense attorney Walter F. Bugden asked whether he had to talk her into sexual intercourse. No sir, never, he replied.
Under cross-examination, prosecutor Craig Barlow didn’t challenge the man’s account of the couple’s first sexual encounter but instead focused on whether he knew that marrying a 14-year-old was illegal.
I didn’t really put much thought into it, said the man, indicating he believed it was right under God’s law.
The cousin, who is now 26, has not been charged. Before he testified, he was warned that what he said could be used against him, but he shrugged off the warning.
I believe that every story needs two sides for the truth to come out, he told the court.
The teen bride has testified that her objections to the marriage and her cousin’s subsequent sexual advances were ignored by church leaders. The man told prosecutors that he doesn’t recall his young wife sobbing through the ceremony or needing to be coaxed to say I do or kiss him.
Describing the early times of the marriage as rocky, the man said he sought counsel from Mr. Jeffs because he wanted to improve the relationship.
Mr. Jeffs told him to pray together. Work together. Play together. Be kind, the man testified. He told me that I had to learn how to get her to love me so she would obey because she loved me.
The young woman left the marriage and the FLDS church in 2004 after becoming pregnant with another man’s child. The Associated Press generally does not name people charging sexual abuse and also is not naming the cousin to protect her identity.