A Utah Judge sentenced Warren Jeffs yesterday, 11/20/07 to two five years to life, concurrent sentences, for his conviction in September on two counts of rape as an accomplice. I’ve been troubled by the Warren Jeffs case since his capture, and have posted previously about my impressions of his journey through Utah’s criminal justice system.
I’m not a big fan of Warren Jeffs. I don’t believe 14 year olds should be married, even if Utah thinks it’s OK. I personally wouldn’t practice plural marriage–though I’m not so certain the state should have any say in that issue, between consenting adults. I think Mr. Jeffs has some peculiar religious beliefs–but many would say the same thing about me. In short, I think much of what Mr. Jeffs teaches and perhaps practices are morally questionable; but, I don’t think Mr. Jeffs is a rapist, or an accomplice to rape. I am troubled that the State of Utah has successfully imprisoned Mr. Jeffs on such a charge, while the young lady’s parents and other family members remain uncharged. Her young “husband” was only recently charged, and that only after the State had safely secured the Jeffs’ conviction it so desperately sought (and likely needed). Now, I ask, if the State cannot convict the “husband” on the rape charge, what happens to Mr. Jeffs? If the husband is innocent of rape, how can Mr. Jeffs have been convicted as an accessory to a rape that never was?
These are not the only questions. From the beginning this case has been about getting Warren Jeffs and putting him out of commission because of his unpopular religious beliefs. Many are troubled by the marriage he performed between the 14 year old girl and the “husband.” I too am troubled; but, if that is the crime, then he should have been charged and convicted on that charge, not rape.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Jeffs’ sentencing:
ST. GEORGE – A Utah judge on Tuesday ordered Warren S. Jeffs to serve two prison terms back-to-back, saying the polygamous sect leader knew it was illegal when he married a 14-year-old girl to her cousin.
Fifth District Judge James L. Shumate called it “poetic justice” that Jeffs had been arrested in Nevada, the same state where the 2001 marriage between Elissa Wall and Allen G. Steed took place.
Jeffs was convicted in September on two counts of rape as an accomplice based on his failure to intervene when Wall objected to the marriage and to having sex with her husband.
Do we really care that Judge Shumate thinks the Jeffs’ arrest was poetic justice? Is this the impartiality we want in our judicial officers? And, even if it accurately reflects the judge’s opinion, is it wise to share that with the world?
Defense attorney Walter F. Bugden asked that Jeffs remain at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane for a week while an appeal is prepared.
Shumate refused and ordered that Jeffs be transported immediately to the Utah State Prison in Draper. Outside the court, Bugden vowed to press ahead with an appeal.
Why order Jeffs immediately to prison? Why not allow his legal team to continue working for another week on the appeal without having to contend with the inconvenience of such a long move? What harm would there have been in granting this simple one week request? One begins to question Judge Shumate’s impartiality after hearing some of his comments, and issuing some of his orders.
Defense counsel noted that Jeffs’ faced the wrong charge, and likely should have been tried outside Washington County, located in Southern Utah. I think he is right on both counts. Jeffs may have been guilty of other crimes.–but certainly not accomplice to rape. He should have been charged and tried on crimes he allegedly committed, not on what the State hoped they could convince a jury to convict. Warren Jeffs was likely the most divisive and unpopular figure in all of Southern Utah. To think he got anything close to an impartial jury there is laughable.
I wish the defense luck on their appeal. Warren Jeffs is likely many things–but an accomplice to rape is more than a stretch. For him to face two consecutive five to life terms is simply unbelievable for what Jeffs actually did here.