Polygamist leader and convicted child molester Warren Jeffs oversaw the ceremony in which a 14-year-old girl was married to her cousin. Elissa Wall, a former child bride, was seeking as much as $22 million from Jeffs and two corporate entities tied to the FLDS Church. Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence in Texas for child sex assault related to underage “marriages.”
Wall sued Jeffs more than a decade ago over the marriage seeking as much as $40 million at one point in her personal injury lawsuit. Jeffs and the FLDS Church refused to respond to the lawsuit and Judge Kelly found them in default.
In a testimony from July, Wall said: "It had many phases of how it's affected me. As a young 14 year old, I was so innocent, protected and naive. It was a brutal introduction into the world of sexuality. I had no sex education." She accused her then-husband of rape. "It really traumatized my self image at the time. I felt dirty, and broken and worthless for many, many years."
Wall’s lawyer, Alan Mortensen, said the decision could reveal the church’s hidden assets. According to Mortensen ‘this judgment, based upon substantial evidence, is one further step to hold the FLDS Church and Warren Jeffs accountable for its past conduct relating to innocent minor girls and in deterring any future aberrant behaviors.’
In a statement, Wall condemned forced child marriages “in the name of religion” and pointed out that this judgment is an important success: “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 sexually exploited and abused in the name of religion… The message sent by this judgment of justice and accountability will hopefully be heard as a loud and clear warning to anyone who would choose to act in the same manner as that of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS Church.”
Wall added that she will now “focus on building a better future for myself and my children.” “I will never give up advocating for the voiceless and working tireless to assist in rebuilding the lives of those recovering from any kind of abuse in the name of religion.”
Photo Credits: Tahirih Justice Center Forced Marriage Initiative