Child bride’s lawsuit against Warren Jeffs returns

SALT LAKE CITY — A child bride’s multi-million dollar personal injury lawsuit against Warren Jeffs has been resurrected, with the imprisoned polygamist leader being forced to sit for a deposition.

Elissa Wall is suing Jeffs, the FLDS Church and its assets arm, the United Effort Plan Trust over her forced marriage at age 14 to her cousin. Jeffs presided over the ceremony; Wall testified against him at his Utah trial.

The lawsuit was filed in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court back in 2007, but has languished in the courts until recently when Wall hired a new law firm. Last month, a judge ordered Jeffs to sit for a deposition at the Texas prison where he is serving a life sentence for child sex assault — stemming from underage marriages.

“He was deposed, and took the Fifth as I understand,” said Jeffrey L. Shields, an attorney representing the UEP Trust, referring to Jeffs’ constitutional right against self-incrimination.

On Monday, Wall herself was scheduled to give a deposition in the lawsuit. Her attorneys declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by FOX 13.

Other top former FLDS Church officials have given depositions — including Winston Blackmore, who was a bishop in the church’s enclave in Canada. In a copy of the deposition obtained by FOX 13, Blackmore admitted to marrying a girl when she was 15  in Utah.

“Have you ever married someone who is under the age of 16?” Blackmore was asked.

“Yes, I have,” he replied in the deposition.

“When was that?”

“Oh, heck, I can’t recall, but I know that it was not — at the time the laws were not changed for the age of consent. They had their parents’ consent,” Blackmore said.

Under further questioning, Blackmore said the marriage was conducted by Warren Jeffs’ father, Rulon Jeffs.

“And how old was she?” he was asked.

“She was 15, just about 16?” Blackmore replied.

“Are you still married to her?”

“Yes, I am.”

“So she was 15 years-old when you married her?”

“Yeah.”

The Utah Attorney General’s Office told FOX 13 it would look into what Blackmore said under oath.

“We are currently investigating the allegations,” Utah attorney general’s spokeswoman Missy Larsen said. “Attorney General Reyes does not view illegal activities that target children and other vulnerable populations lightly and will prosecute criminal activity when appropriate.”

The UEP Trust has been fighting the lawsuit, losing a request to have the judge dismiss it outright. Shields said they have now appealed to the Utah Supreme Court to weigh in.

“We believe that a charitable trust cannot be held liable for the conduct of a rogue trustee,” he said.

The UEP Trust controls most of the property and homes in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. It has an estimated worth of hundreds of millions of dollars. The UEP Trust was taken over by the courts in 2005 amid allegations that Jeffs and other FLDS leaders mismanaged it.

Shields said he believed that if Wall were to win her lawsuit, it could open the floodgates to other litigation by ex-FLDS members and potentially bankrupt the trust and the communities.

“If the trust is liable for all the conduct of Warren Jeffs, there’s probably a lot of bad conduct there,” he said. “I don’t know everything about him, but most of what I’ve heard is not good.”

Warren Jeffs hospitalized

Jeffs on Monday was reported to be hospitalized in Galveston, Texas. In a statement to FOX 13, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said Jeffs was taken to the hospital March 11 “for treatment of a non-life threatening medical condition.”

No further details were released.

Photos: Warren Jeffs and Wives

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