US Polygamist Church Leader Must Pay Former Child Bride $16 Million in Damages

US (Sputnik) – Warren Jeffs, the president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a Mormon denomination whose members practice polygamy, must pay $16 million to the woman he pressured to marry her 19-year-old cousin in 2001, when she was only 14 years old.

Elissa Wall will receive $4 million in damages and $12 million in punitive damages. The ruling by Utah Judge Keith Kelly comes 12 years after the lawsuit was first filed. It accuses Jeffs of arranging Wall’s marriage to Allen Steed, performing the ceremony and pressuring them to have children, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Wall endured multiple miscarriages and a stillbirth during her marriage.

Jeffs and the church did not defend themselves in the lawsuit.

Jeffs was previously convicted as a rape accomplice for officiating Wall’s marriage to Allen almost a decade ago, but the Utah Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 2010.

According to Kelly, Jeff’s conduct “was so extreme that it went beyond all possible bounds of decency and is regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society,” reported Newser.

“Warren Jeffs exercised this absolute control, power and authority over life so that he could require her, as a young girl, to enter into an unlawful spiritual marriage,” he wrote.

Wall released a statement on Tuesday saying, “The judgment handed down by the court is a big step forward in the fight for a strong and unmovable statement to the world that no one, especially children, can be sexual exploited and abused in the name of religion.”

“Today is a victory for many thousands of victims of abuse. Many of us have stood up in our own way to fight for justice and further the protection of children,” she added.

After Tuesday’s decision, Wall’s lawyer said that the $16 million should come from FLDS assets “so the church feels the pain of what their doctrine has been as to the rape of young girls.”

Jeffs was imprisoned for life in Texas in 2006 for sexually abusing two girls he married.

This report was reprinted from Sputnik News.