Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Letters Round-Up

(Brandon Burt)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Warren Jeffs Trial: The Verdict

[News] St George, UT - Warren Jeffs has been found guilty. He has been convicted on two counts of Rape as an Accomplice.

A few minutes after 2:15 p.m. yesterday (Tuesday, Sept. 25), the jury was led back into the courtroom. Affirming that they had, in fact, reached a verdict, jury foreman David Finch (a 64 year-old retiree) handed the verdict form to the bailiff, who in turn handed it to Judge James Shumate. Shumate studied the form, then added the date and his signature, and handed it to the court clerk, who was asked to read it. She said, "In the matter of State v. Warren Steed Jeffs…"

Gerald Munk, 36, St. George City Employee: “Basically she didn’t have a choice. The simple fact of the matter was her age, and the law. Warren Jeffs was her only ticket out of the marriage… Jeffs was a prophet that told his followers that he would take away all of their choice, all of their responsibility, and place them in their marriages. He did not give them any alternatives.”

Garry Lynn Maxwell, 40, Draftsman/Civil Engineer: “There were laws that were broken, and [what mattered was] how Mr. Jeffs led to the breaking of those laws. Not what [Elissa Wall] would get [in a civil suite]… Obviously sex occurred. She was underage. She was illegally married. It was against the law.”

Heather Danielle Newkirk, 32, House Wife/Massage Therapist: [Asked what the jury’s impressions of FLDS culture are] “Very interesting, we got quite an education. It made me grateful for my husband… I’m happy to have the freedom and choices that I do.”

Diedre Shaw, 32, House Wife: [Asked if the case is about religion] “No. But how can you separate it?”

Listening to the jurors explain how they reached their verdict, they kept coming reiterating the key terms of the trial. Enticement. Recklessness. Consent. It was interesting to hear how these words weighted on their minds while they were locked in the jury room, and how methodical they were in reaching their decision “There were a lot of things to consider, that we had to factor into the whole picture,” said Heather Danielle Newkirk.

They discussed at length, which testimony made the greatest impression on them. Almost all of them cited Rebecca Musser, Elissa Wall’s sister, who denounced Jeffs’s harsh treatment of his followers from the stand, pointing and jabbing her finger in his direction. The jurors also seemed to distrust Allen Steed, Wall’s former husband. They found his standing in witness box, as opposed to sitting, to be strange, and they were troubled by the discrepancies in the timeline he provided of his and Wall’s sexual relationship during the prosecution’s cross examination. (Those discrepancies seemed minor to me to me at the time, and I failed to mention them in my analysis of Steed’s testimony.) A reporter asked what they thought of the fact that Steed has never been charged with the rape in question, to which Rachel Karimi – 28, House Wife - said, “That was not our concern here. Our concern was Mr. Jeffs.”

When the testimony of several FLDS members, solicited by the defense to shed light on their cultural norms, was brought up, the jurors kind of hesitated. “Well, they were consistent,” said Newkirk. But those accounts didn’t lessen the impact of the Wall sisters’ testimony in the jury’s mind. One of the defense’s FLDS witness seems to have even hurt their case. Jennie Pipkin testified that Jeffs had released her from her marriage after she complained of being sexual molested by her husband, which was intended to show, contrary to Wall’s story, forced sex was cause for an immediate release form marriage. But the jury interpreted it as only a demonstration of Jeffs’s power to release women from their husbands, and in no way a contradiction of Wall’s testimony.

The more the jurors talked, the more that it became clear that all of them, even those who had initial doubts, had adopted the basic premise of the prosecution’s legal theory right from the start. The defense’s theory – with its doubts about the appropriateness of the charges and the motivations of key witnesses, and its talk of religious persecution and the state’s political motives – didn’t seem to penetrate their thinking very deeply. That is not to suggest that they were unduly biased, or that their verdict was not reached in good faith; there is absolutely nothing that would suggest that. What it means is that the jury saw a crime committed, and was convinced by the prosecution that the ultimate blame rested with Warren Jeffs.

“[Jeffs] held all the keys to release her from that marriage,” says Benjamin Coulter – 26, retail salesman – articulating the prosecution’s case perfectly, “He was the only one that could have told her that she didn’t have to be in that marriage, and that there would be no consequences.”

Brock Belnap, Washington County Attorney: “I feel it is a just verdict… that reaffirms my faith in the jury system. I will always be grateful for the courage of Elissa Wall, who withstood attacks on her character and credibility with dignity and honor. We now have other things to do. More cases pending. We are going to go back, and go to work.”

Elissa Wall, Complaining Witness in State v. Jeffs: “I still have tender feelings for the FLDS community. I pray they will stand back and reexamine what they have been led to believe. To the girls, know that you are created equal. That you do not have to surrender your rights or spiritual sovereignty.”

Richard Holm, Former FLDS Member and Hildale City Councilman: “Warren Jeffs is an opportunist, who say an opportunity to take power and glory. He is a wolf who dressed himself in sheep’s cloths, which he used to hurt those around him. He is a victim of hi own desires…” [Asked if he has any malice towards Jeffs for tearing apart his family] “I’ve tried to get over that. I’m relieved I didn’t have to testify… There is a power base [in the FLDS community] that will carry on though.”

Gary Ingles, Special Investigator for the Mojave County Attorney: “You can have a religion that says you can violate the law. But when you do violate the law, we will come after you.”

Elaine Tyler, President of the Hope Organization: “I’m on Cloud Nine. I hope this points to a change. You can’t force little girls to marry; that is child abuse.”

Statement from Mark Shurtleff, Utah Attorney General: “This verdict is a victory for the many victims who have been hurt by Warren Jeffs and have been too afraid to speak out. Everyone should now know that no one is above the law, religion is not an excuse for abuse and every victim has a right to be heard… Today’s verdict is just the beginning of a long journey to seek justice for all.”

Walter Bugden, Defense Attorney for Warren Jeffs: “No comment.”

On the first full day of jury deliberations, Monday, Sept. 24, the jury informed Judge Shumate at about 2:45 that they had reached a decision on the first count of the indictment against Jeffs, but not on the second count, and that they did not believe further deliberations were needed.

The initial split on the charges was a little odd, because the distinction between the two was only really made during the prosecution’s closing argument. You may recall that the first charge is linked to a rape that is alleged to have occurred between April 23 (the date of Elissa Wall’s wedding to Allen Steed, where Jeffs told them to ‘go forth, and multiply’), and May 12 of 2001. The second charge is for a rape committed between May 13, 2001 (when Wall went to Jeffs for counseling, and he told her to ‘give herself mind, body and soul’) and mid 2003, when Wall left the FLDS community.

The split jury was five to three with Diedre Shaw, Gerald Munk, and Heather Danielle Newkirk not ready to vote to convict on that second count. Later, they said the broad timeline for that alleged rape troubled them, and they wondered if Wall’s ‘sugaring up’ of Steed was a contradiction of her claims. “It was really hard,” Shaw said, “I though fists were going to start flying.”

Shumate ordered the jury to go back into their deliberations, to review the jury instructions, and to take more time to try to find away around their impasse.

But outside, the media was hungry for a verdict. So much so that an innocent miscommunication among a few reporters and photographers led to several news outlets declaring a guilty verdict on their websites. Those headlines were down within the hour, and at 8:10 the jury was sent home for the night.

There has been a lot of speculation as to the ‘event’ that caused one juror to be excused Tuesday morning, but later many other jurors would credit the selected alternate, Rachel Karimi, with breaking the deadlock. Those who had questioned Wall’s ‘sugaring up’ began to see it more as a coping mechanism as opposed to a demonstration of her will. And that led them back to one of those key words, enticement.

After the verdict was read, the jury was excused, and sentencing issues were addressed. When Shumate excused the courtroom, the FLDS member in attendance, all of whom had remained stone-faced the whole time, rushed past the cameras outside, and into their cars.

Jeffs had been stone-faced too, not showing a hint of emotion when he was found guilty. But as his lawyers discussed possible dates for a sentencing hearing, Jeffs’s eyes began to drop, his moth hung open a bit, and he fidgeted slightly.

Daniel Medwed, Professor of Criminal Procedure, University of Utah: “I’m a little surprised by the verdict, but I can see that many people in this community think that Warren Jeffs is morally reprehensible, and that his actions strike a cord with people… In the end, the prosecution swung for the fences and hit a home run. They charged Warren Jeffs, not with some relatively minor crime, but with a first-degree felony. And they were successful.”

Ken Driggs, Civil Rights Attorney and FLDS Historian: “I thought the state’s case was weak, and that it was a stretch. There are many, obvious issues that will be taken up in the appellate system, particularly the issue of whether Utah’s rape statute is intended to cover this type of conduct. I understand that the jury was greatly affected by the girls age. The issue of underage brides has been around in the FLDS community for a while, and it seems to have picked up under Warren Jeffs – it’s almost like he was sticking his finger in the eye of law enforcement. But ultimately all of the first amendment issues about freedom or religion are not going to protect you from this type of conduct with minors.”

Warren Jeffs has been escorted back to the Purgatory Correctional Facility, where he will await the sentencing phase of his trial. His lawyers have requested an extension beyond the maximum 45 days allowed by law, so that they can prepare a pre-sentencing report, which will likely include a psycho-sexual evaluation. He will likely still stand trial in Arizona, facing charges of Conspiracy to Commit Child Abuse and Incest charges, but the Mojave County Attorney has not yet determined if and when that will happen. Jeffs’s lawyers are almost certain to begin working on his appeal, on a myriad of issues, as soon as possible.

Earlier today, Washington County filed rape charges against Allen Steed.

That is what we know the day after Warren Jeffs’s conviction. There are still big questions: What will happen to the FLDS community in his absence? Will more of his followers flee Hildale and Colorado City for Texas, Canada, and parts unknown? What actions against other FLDS members, and members of other polygamist clans, will this lead to? What will be the political ramifications across the state?

Those questions, and many others, will surely be answered in due time. (Louis Godfrey)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Believe the Hype

[Review] I will fully admit that I'm a recovering ballet snob. I spent many years in pink tights and a black leotard, with my hair slicked back into the most flawless bun I could manage, believing that every other form of dance was totally inferior to ballet. A big part of my self-prescribed rehabilitation program is to branch out and expose myself to as many non-ballet dance performances (and classes) as possible.

Attending Transfusion Hype’s Rebirth Sept. 18 made me realize that I’m steadily overcoming my ballet snobbery. Three years ago, Rebirth’s energetic mix of hip-hop, jazz and modern dance would have sent me fleeing for the nearest exit. But I’m far enough along on my rehabilitation schedule to sincerely congratulate choreographer Ashlee Prentice for creating a thoroughly entertaining and engaging evening of dance, even if I had to fight for the first 20 minutes not to scream "high school dance company calibre!" at the top of my lungs.

Transfusion Hype’s passionate and able dancers (most notably Prentice, Lynn Palermo and Rachel Clayson), tight choreography and sharp musicality certainly had me clapping by the end of the show. (Jenny Poplar)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

First, Find a Truly Independent Jurist

[Media] Let's get one thing straight. We love Salt Lake City's McCarthey family. We really do. The longtime former owners of The Salt Lake Tribune are looking better all the time since William Dean "Dinky" Singleton took over the paper with his Media News corporate robots (all the glassy-eyed top editors, recruited elsewhere from Dean’s chain, consistently refer to the Tribune as "the product" – even in casual conversation. To them, it might as well be a revised line of microwave popcorn or a new brand of pantyhose. Need any more evidence of automaton management?)

So we were especially happy to get a news release this week announcing an essay contest in conjunction with the annual McCarthey Family Lecture Series: In Praise of an Independent Press. Last year, the McCartheys brought in former UPI White House reporter Helen Thomas to extol the virtues of speaking (and writing) our minds; this year, the Oct. 20 headliner is blogging diva and one of John Saltas’ favorite Greeks, Arianna Huffington. Should be a great speech.

The 400-word essay contest, according to the news release, must be an original response to the topic “What Independent Journalism Means to Me.”

We did find it a tad bit ironic that the judge’s panel for the contest is made up exclusively of current and former mainstream, daily newspaper journalists. Nary a one has written for an altie paper. Not a political blogger among them, either (cripes—what would Arianna say?). The panel is: Vern Anderson, editorial page editor of the Tribune; Lois Collins, staff writer and editorial page columnist for the Deseret Morning News; Lex Hemphill, retired sports writer for the Trib; and Nancy Melich, retired arts writer for the Trib. Hemphill and Melich are now actively engaged in community, artistic and progressive causes.

Mary Kay Lazarus, a spokeswoman for the lecture series, responded to my query about “where are the indie journalists on the judge’s panel?” with a courteous e-mail:

“We did not define 'independent' as 'alternative' but rather as reporting in terms of integrity, courage, and talent - attributes shared by those (including certainly yourself) in both mainstream and alternative press. Arianna (like Helen Thomas, our first annual speaker and Anderson Cooper, our next), is certainly mainstream now but remains one of the most independent representatives of reporting we have.The only print advertising we did - as an FYI -was in City Weekly and we shall do so again this time because of the wonderfully independent spirit, mission and readership of your publication.”

But I think she misunderstood. It isn’t the speakers whose independence I challenged. It’s the judges of the essay contest. Wouldn’t at least one indie blogger be welcomed on the panel? It’s supposed to be a big tent, after all. (Holly Mullen)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Warren Jeffs Trial: Utah Has Gone Crazy

[News] St. George, UT - The prosecution presented its closing argument yesterday in the form of chemistry class-like diagram. On a large piece of poster board (positively low-tech compared to the defense's flashy Power Points) Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap had flow charted the exact, technical elements of both "rape" and "accomplice," and the mental state - intentioned, knowing and reckless – required of the perpetrator, Warren Jeffs, needed to marry the two.

“Warren Jeffs would not have arranged for a ceremony three hours away, for an illegal marriage if he did not intend for Elissa Wall (the victim, whose name has finally been made public) to have sex with Allen Steed,” Belnap said. And again and again, he fell back on a familiar refrain, “There was no consent,” to confirm the gut reaction that something very wrong had occurred.

When Belnap took his seat, Walter Bugden stood for the defense, and unloaded both proverbial barrels. He aggressively dissected the prosecutions interpretations of statute, often referring to the lawyers by name. Bugden viciously questioned the reliability of the prosecution’s witnesses, particularly Wall. He exhibited a medical chart (written up by Jane Blackmore, a midwife who testified for the prosecution) that indicated Wall might have engaged in drug abuse. Bugden also detailed the terms of a settlement proposal in Wall’s law suite against the FLDS Church, under which both she and her attorneys would receive significant land holdings and cash. (Wall’s attorney, Greg Hoole, said that Bugden had misrepresented the terms of the settlement agreement, and called the drug use accusations ‘preposterous.’)

But book ending Bugden’s assault on the mechanics of the prosecution’s case, there were odes to the presumption of innocence and the proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and talk of a religion-targeted, overzealous prosecution. “This case is about religion. That is why they are all here [pointing to the media in the gallery]. But this case is not State v. FLDS Culture, it is State v. Warren Jeffs,” Bugden said. “The state could have charged Mr. Jeffs with the appropriate crime – solemnizing an unlawful marriage – but … Utah has gone crazy, for political reasons. So they dropped a nuclear bomb on the FLDS, and charged Warren Jeffs with rape.”

In his rebuttal, Belnap struck back, implying that Bugden was saying what was necessary for his client’s case, but that his statements did not constitute evidence. He then affirmed the core themes of his earlier statement: “These are not theories. They are the law, and if you apply them, you have to find Warren Jeffs guilty.”

But outside the courtroom, there are doubts. Representatives from the Arizona Attorney General’s office were on hand today, and while they will press ahead with there case against Jeffs regardless of the verdict, there demeanor suggested they were at least preparing for the possibility that they will not have a Utah conviction to base there case on.

But now the only doubts that matter are the ones the eight men and women in the jury room have, and whether those doubts are reasonable.


Allen Steed’s testimony was the stuff of country songs. The former husband of Elissa Wall, Steed is said to have committed the rape that Warren Jeffs is charged with accomplicing. But Steed has never been charged with that crime, let alone convicted of it, and seeing him on the stand the other day, it’s not hard to see why. Steed, standing rather than sitting in the witness box, was soft-spoken and painfully awkward as he talked about his rocky, short-lived marriage. It was hard to see him commanding obedience from any woman, even a fourteen year-old. “I like to think I was in charge [in his marriage],” Steed said, “But I know I wasn’t.”

“It shows that the Attorney General’s office wanted Jeffs,” says Daniel Medwed, a professor of criminal law at Utah’s S.J. Quinny Law School. “And that Jeffs may be ultimately more to blame for what happened.”

What happened is still an open question. Steed’s version of events almost completely contradicts Wall’s testimony. He maintains that he never forced her to have sex, and he does not remember her weeping uncontrollably on their wedding day. The only thing he did confirm was an incident where he exposed himself to her in a public park a few weeks after they were married. “In my clumsy way, I thought it would move things along,” Steed said. “I’m not very good at communicating.”

But the he said/she said may even be beside the point. Wall has let it be known that she will not testify against Steed willingly (she has even referred to him as a ‘victim’ in the past), and the police have never previously interviewed Steed about these incidents. The question is, what will the lack of a conviction in the principal crime at issue do to the accomplice case against Jeffs?

“Under Utah’s Accomplice Statute, there is no need for the state to prove that the crime in question happend. They just need to prove Jeffs acted criminally recklessly in the matter,” says Medwed. “But [in the mind of the jurors], the lack of a rape conviction likely helps Jeffs.”

From the beginning, the defense has tried to get the jury to doubt that a rape ever actually occurred, Even if the law allows for such a leap, their theory almost certainly goes, the jury just won’t be able to find Jeffs an accomplice an act they doubt happened. Towards the end of his testimony, Steed talked about how he felt the day he found out Wall had been seeing another man – her current husband, Lamont Barlow. “Weakness flared up. I had a desire to get my gun. But I knew I couldn’t, that it wasn’t right,” Steed said, and his shoulders slumped. You couldn’t help but just feel sorry for the guy.

(In the interest of full disclosure: Allen Steed’s lawyer, Jim Bradshaw, has acted as my legal council in the past.)


What goes through the mind of a ‘prophet?’ In order to lead a fundamentalist community in the way that Warren Jeffs led (and in spirit, still leads) the FLDS, to have people believe that you alone can receive God’s true revelation, do you have to believe it you yourself?

This has been one of the ongoing subplots of the whole Jeffs affair, and has been lurking in the background throughout his trial. The nature of his prophethood in the FLDS Church – is it purely political or ‘divinely ordained’ – first came up in a preliminary hearing earlier this year when Jeffs tried to pass a mysterious note to Judge Shumate, but was stopped by his lawyers before he could. A Deseret News photographer was able to snap a picture of the folded piece of paper in Jeffs’s hands. A few days later, D-News reporter Ben Winslow wrote up the results of an independent analysis the newspaper had done of the photograph, and it’s conclusion that the note was Jeffs confessing to not being a true prophet. (The defense tried to get a contempt order for Winslow when he refused to reveal the source of the analysis, but the Judge Shumate quashed it.)

Flash forward to the trial, where much of the prosecution’s theory has rested on the idea that Jeffs essentially usurped his father Rulon’s position as head of the FLDS Church around 2001, after Rulon had suffered two strokes, and that he used that ecclesiastical authority to accomplice Wall’s rape. The prosecution has had to walk a fine line in presenting putting forward this argument, because much of the testimony to that affect constitutes inadmissible hearsay.

But in the testimony of Wall’s sister, Rebecca Musser, her vantage point as Rulon’s wife allowed her to describe more and more appointments with the prophet being taken by Jeffs (who was technically First Counselor at the time), and that he was making more ecclesiastical decisions. After Rulon’s death, Musser described the harsh treatment Jeffs inflicted on his father’s former wives, including marrying them off to other men in the community. When Musser refused, Jeffs told her that he would ‘break her, that he would make her a good [submissive] wife.’ (Court documents on the anticipated, but never heard, testimony of Jethro Barlow attested to a more ‘authoritarian’ feeling taking over the FLDS when Jeffs became prophet.)

So was being prophet purely about power for Jeffs? Is it an elaborate sham that only Jeffs, and those before him, are in on? I wrote the Ben Winslow yesterday, to see if he had any thoughts on this. “There is just no way to answer that question,” he replied. “There is just no way to speculate about what is going in Warren Jeffs’ head.” (Louis Godfrey)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Letters Round-Up

(Brandon Burt)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Warren Jeffs Trial: The Shrill Circus

[News] St. George, UT - The presentation of evidence in the case of State v. Warren Steed Jeffs has ended; the prosecution and the defense have both rested their cases. With the jury to begin deliberating on Jeffs' fate Friday, it interesting that so little of the evidence or testimony they to consider involved Jeffs directly. Befitting of his presence in the courtroom – a lack of sudden movement coupled with a seemingly unblinking stare; the perfect embodiment of the cool monotone heard in his taped sermons – witnesses have talked of Jeffs as if he were a specter in their lives, more than a flesh-and-blood actor.

In the highly emotional testimony, JM (a pseudonym for the victim, used to identify her in civil court documents) spoke of Warren Jeffs as a constant authority figure in her life, first as a teacher, then a counselor, and finally as the prophet. According to her, not only was he the one who arranged and presided over her marriage at age 14, but he was also the embodiment of all the pressures and controls of FLDS society.

In some tense cross-examination, the defense tried to impeach not only JM’s memory of the events she described (some of which conflict with earlier statements she made), but to show her as a feisty strong-willed young woman, who had options and influences concerning her arranged marriage beyond Warren Jeffs’s control.

Essentially, two portraits were painted. The first was of a frightened little girl, forced into a marriage she vocalized opposed, but was given no choice but to ‘keep sweet’ even as she sobbed in a bathroom and downed whole bottles of Tylenol in a bathroom after her wedding ceremony. The second was of a feisty young woman, capable of ‘sugaring up,’ or using sex, to win favor with her new husband, who had no problem challenging the assertions of a seasoned defense attorney, and who has a potentially lucrative law site pending against the United Effort Plan (the financial trust of the FLDS Church).

Ultimately, the jury does not need to decide which portrait is the real JM, but what traits would have even been possible inside FLDS society.

And at that point, FLDS culture went on trial. Through a string of witness, the defense and prosecution would haggle over the final points of FLDS doctrine, marriage covenants (particularly the line ‘be fruitful and multiply), and common phrases such as ‘bodies, boots and britches to your husbands.’

The prosecution’s final witness, JM’s sister Rebecca, acted as the state’s de facto FLDS expert. Rebecca had been a teacher at Alta Academy (a private FLDS high school, where Jeffs was the principal), and a wife of Rulon Jeffs, the defendant’s fathe. In her testimony, she reasserted her sister’s understanding of FLDS teachings - from Home Economics lessons on wifely duties, to the implied instructions in FLDS marriage vows. All of which, according to Rebecca, let a girl know that submission in sexual matters is expected of her. On his cross-examination, Walter Bugden continually insisted, “That is your interpretation.”

The defense, for there part, called about half a dozen FLDS members to present much more liberal interpretations of concepts like ‘obedience’ and ‘submission.’ Most of the women who testified were employed independently, and all of the husbands spoke of their wives as equal partners in marriage. One woman, Jeannie Pipkin, testified that she was released form her marriage after she complained to Jeffs about repeated, unwelcomed sexual touching.

It was strange to watch both the sides quiz witness about a culture concepts that they only know second hand, looking for only the interpretations that will support the understanding they want the jury to have. When the jury deliberates, they will be considering the criminality of FLDS culture as much as they will Jeffs’s actions. Ironically, if they can see Jeffs as his followers do, as a true prophet who embodies and enforces the word of God, they may be more likely to convict then if they just see him as an odd, vaguely creepy-looking man at the other end of the courtroom.


Immediately before it closed its case Tuesday morning, the prosecution played one last audiotape. Not of Warren Jeffs sermonizing, though; the voice heard was that of Sam Barlow, an elder in the FLDS Church. The recording is of a speech Barlow made in a secret priesthood meeting in 2001, and was taped by his son Jethro, who had a recording device hidden in his shoe.

In his speech, Barlow talks of a ‘conspiracy’ by the governments of Utah, Arizona and the United States to put a stop to FLDS practices, such as ‘underage’ marriages. What is disturbing about the tape is not that Barlow has such a keen knowledge of the politics outside his community (he correctly predicts that then-Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano would win the Governorship in 2002), but the utter contempt Barlow shows for core democratic and judicial principles. At no point in the tape does Barlow call for violence, but it is not hard to hear an urging towards some type of radical subversion. Barlow repeatedly says they do not recognize governmental laws, but only ‘the laws of God.’

When the tape ended, someone in the courtroom – never identified by the bailiffs or the media – muttered “Amen.”


When Tara Isaacson and Walter Bugden walked into court Monday morning, they walked briskly past the small gaggle of media. But there was one question, yelled by a TV reporter that Isaacson couldn’t quite stay silent on. “Ms. Isaacson,” he said, “As a well educated woman how can you defend a man that denies education to women?” With just the slightest turn of the head in acknowledgment, Isaacson replied, “You have a nice day.”

It is not just the press on the front steps of the 5th District Courthouse whose tone is approaching shrill. Last week on his Fox News show, Bill O’Reilly questioned the fitness of Judge Shumate to hear this case due to supposed discrepancies in sentencing child sex offenders, and that Shumate once referred to polygamy as an act of ‘civil disobedience.’ Over at the New Republic, Michelle Cottle called the defense’s arguments “obscene,” and that if Jeffs does not spend the rest of his life in prison, “There is no justice in the world.”

Well, then. I guess not all verdicts require careful deliberation. (Louis Godfrey)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Partly Local: Dance Theatre Coalition's "Proving Ground"

[Multimedia] I'm always happy to hear about and support productions in the vein of the Proving Ground that provide an appropriate space for amateurs to stage and develop their work, or perhaps professionals trying their hand at something new. It’s also nice to see an arts community as fecund as Salt Lake's fostering emerging and innovative talent by spreading funding, space, support and energy around to those that might be in need. That, in short, is the No. 1 reason I make an extra effort to attend such productions.

Proving Ground’s producers,
Dance Theatre Coalition, decided to forgo traditional ticketing in favor of online reservation and a suggested donation of $15. Obviously this technique is aimed at getting more butts in seats. Still, it’s a risky venture in the sense that people might actually pay for what they feel they got—and Utah audiences are notoriously fickle (read: cheap).

I was under the impression that as a locally-grown production—funded for the most part by local monies and attended by local audiences—Proving Ground would consist of local emerging artists and talent. And there were some. Joey Guesthouse—a used-appliance salesman who attends school part time at Salt Lake Community College when not otherwise busy—and his VHS Quintet opened the show by twisting and tweaking various knobs, sampling and mixing sounds culled from the five VCR’s he’s ingeniously wired to a multi-tracker, delay pedal, delay unit, battle mixer and drum machine. A brilliant kaleidoscopic dance for the camera was choreographed and edited by Erin Kaser. And there was Lindsay Ellis-Ermidis’ Remote Beyond Control dance piece, half-heartedly constructed around the growing banality of America, fueled by a blind devotion to all things media. There was even a one-act scene directed by Alexandra Harbold that culminated with a passionate delivery of Ptolemy’s self-written eulogy.

The problem lay with the fact that this multi-disciplinary evening—which included dance, film, theater, music and mixed variations on all those mediums—included several artists that not only had little or nothing to do with Utah, but also didn’t deliver anything particularly unique. Sure, Dana Michel’s solo performances were filled with interesting and provocative movement that consisted mostly of hyperbolic, pedestrian themes made grotesque. But such movement always works better when juxtaposed with something beautiful and serene.

Still, the best example of the evening falling flat came with the closer: “Stairway to St. Paul’s” by the Dutch-born Jeroen Offerman. This short film, created in 2002, shows Offerman himself singing Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” backwards. He taught himself how to sing the entire song backwards, filmed himself doing so on a street somewhere, reversed the film, added Zepplin’s score and, voilá! What I thought was a local artistic Proving Ground turned into YouTube’s greatest hits.

And really that may be the theme for the evening. Proving Ground is supposed to be a space to develop new ideas, and a sphere for emerging artists. But the result was a stewing pot of ideas, many of which needed to simmer a little longer. (Jacob Stringer)

Where's Shane Johnson When You Need Him?

[Crime Mystery] We all hope that Chris Coan will be found safe and sound, if he wants to be. Still, the mystery surrounding his disappearance engages the imagination.

Coan wrote down the number "208" before leaving his job at a Subway sandwich shop in Enoch. Then he drove away and hasn't been heard from since.

  • Did police use the time-honored "scribble on the notepad with the edge of a pencil lead" technique to discover what it was he had written down? (This worked in The Big Lebowski and countless other spy movies and Perry Mason episodes, but it's really easier--though less cinematically dramatic--to hold the paper at an oblique angle to the light.)
  • Why do police assume 208 is a phone number? It's only three digits. Nobody ever writes down just an area code or an exchange; phone numbers are seven or 10 digits. And Coan doesn't even have a cell phone.
  • My theory is that 208 is a hotel room number. You wouldn't necessarily write down the name of a hotel if you knew where it was, but you would probably write down a room number if you were meeting a guest there.
  • According to Bill Frost, if this were an episode of The Rockford Files, 208 would be the number of a locker at a bus depot.

(Brandon Burt)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Five Spot: Ron Paul

Republican presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul comes to town for three events on Saturday, September 15, starting with an $1,000 per person brunch reception from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Union Pacific Depot Grand Hall in The Gateway at 91 S. Rio Grande St. Following the high-priced croissants is a more affordable (i.e., free) Constitution celebration and public rally from 1-4 p.m. also at The Gateway’s Union Pacific Depot. Finally, later in the evening, the American Founders University in Provo is holding a private reception from 5-7 p.m. To RSVP, visit City Weekly caught up with Dr. Paul (he’s a M.D., too), who also happens to be talk-show host Bill Maher’s “new hero,” to see what all the commotion is about:

What should City Weekly readers know about Ron Paul?
That I fight for your individual rights and freedoms more than any other politician in Washington.

On what issues do you part company from other Republican candidates?
I part company on the direction that the Republican Party has taken on a lot of things in the past six years. Republicans have traditionally been non-interventionist when it come to foreign policy and stood for less government and constitutional rights at home. But now, we have become a party that advocates pre-emptive war, entitlement spending and illegal wiretapping. I want to bring the party back to the traditions from which we have strayed.

Who are some well-known Ron Paul supporters in Salt Lake City?
I can’t name anyone in particular but I understand that we have hundreds of Meetup group members and a lot of enthusiastic volunteers.

If, while attending a fund-raising dinner in Salt Lake City, you notice the wait-staff is made up of mostly undocumented workers, what would you tell them about their future employment prospects in the United States?
I would tell them that I hope that we can fix our broken immigration system and attune it much more closely to the free market so the United States can be much more generous in granting legal immigration and guest worker programs.

Assume you are elected president in 2008 and take office in January 2009. When would you order troops from Iraq withdrawn?
I would immediately have the troops stop patrolling the streets of Iraq. That is a policeman’s job, not a job for our brave men and women. Then, I would consult with our military leaders and devise a plan to withdraw all of our troops and quickly and safely as possible.

How have you been so surprisingly effective at reaching the grass-roots?
It’s the message. The message of freedom. It is popular and powerful. The message of freedom brings people together from all backgrounds and walks of life.

Many Utahns support Mitt Romney. How would you be a better choice than Mitt?
I’m not going to disparage Mitt Romney. But if the citizens of Utah want a president who will bring the troops home, stop policing the world and vigorously defend the constitution, then I am their candidate.

Why should a Democrat give you his or her vote in 2008?
Democrats were elected in 2006 to end this war in Iraq. They haven’t done so and are playing political games just like Republicans. I am the only candidate who would end this war and fix our foreign policy.
(Jerre Wroble)

Warren Jeffs Trail: Day 2

[News] St. George, UT - "Please stop. I don't know what you're doing." These words come from the alleged rape victim, the rape that Warren Jeffs allegedly facilitated, as quoted by Washington County Prosecutor Brock Belnap in his opening statement yesterday. The victim, who by court order is not to be named in any media accounts, claims that she was forced to have sex by her husband in order to consummate their marriage, which was arranged and performed by Jeffs. It bears repeating that she was only 14 years old.

With a jury of seven women and five men seated, the trial of Warren Jeffs began with the traditonal opening statements by both sides. For the prosecution and defense, these statements are a chance to present a narrative, to define what the themes of the trial will be.

So, what is the Warren Jeffs trial really all about?

According to the prosecution, it is about the unquestionable position of authority that Warren Jeffs occupied in the victim’s life, and that through his writings, sermons, and private counseling Jeffs made it clear that the victim was duty-bound to submit to her husband. In both their opening statement and the first portion of the victim’s testimony (more about which will be posted after it concludes today), the prosecution aimed to create a portrait of a frightened girl, who knew what was expected of her, and had no real way to refuse.

The prosecution showed pictures of her being fitted for her wedding dress the night before her celestial marriage was performed, and the marriage bed that was decorated for her and her husband with flowers in the shape of a heart. Later they played audio recordings of Jeffs talking about the duties of wives to their husbands. The FLDS members in attendance – several men in dark wool suites and two women in pioneer-era dresses – barley flinched as this evidence of their secretive world was aired.

The defense on the other hand wants the jury to question if a rape ever took place, let alone if Warren Jeffs was an accomplice to it. Tara Isaacson, combining Power Point and a hint of theatricality, opened the defenses case by arguing that the testimony of the victim and the teachings of Jeffs, if fairly evaluated, show no real evidence of a crime. Further more, Isaacson said the defense will attempt to show, through dozens of witnesses, that within the norms of FLDS culture, arranged marriages at a young age are common, and do not constitute rape.

This hints at, but falls short of, comments made about the case by Isaacson’s co-council Walter Bugden prior to the trail. “It is nothing short of the state of Utah condemning a culturally different religion. It is a continuation of 165 years of intolerance,” Bugden said, as quoted in The Spectrum. He went on to talk about arranged marriages of young people are common around the world, and that Jeffs acted in a way that many religious leaders do.

Curious about this quote, I e-mailed Bugden a few days ago asking, “Where is the limit? Not just in this case, but more broadly, where is the limit on freedom of religious practice? To what point can a modern, pluralistic society tolerate religious practices that, arguably, deprive the individual of their own free exercise?”

I never got a reply from Mr. Bugden, which was to be expected. Mr. Bugden has refused several interview requests pertaining to the Jeffs case, and is known for being media shy.

But, maybe, he didn’t reply because there is no good answer. And Maybe that’s what this trial is really about.


A little over an hour before the trial opened, Judge Shuate heard the final pre-trial motion on the limiting of evidence, one with an interesting Constitutional question imbedded in it.

The defense had asked the court to exclude an audio recording of Jeffs sermonizing that had come into the possession of the prosecution. It is not clear where the tape (which has not been made available to the public) came from, although it was supposedly recorded in August of 2006, possibly after Jeffs’s arrest. In the excerpted portions from court documents, Jeffs talks about a 2003 revelation, in which he say a government conspiracy to criminalize and prosecute his work and the work of his father (Rulon Jeffs) concerning Celestial Marriage.

The Defense argued that not only was this tape irrelevant and highly prejudicial, it was also protected speech, as it was in the form of a religious communiqué of sorts. This definitely piqued the interest of both Shumate and the prosecution.

The prosecution said they were not sure if they were actually going to enter the tape into evidence, but maintained that it did have relevance, and wanted to maintain the right to use it.

Shumate said that, for the moment, he thought the tape’s prejudicial impact would outweigh its relevance, but he would be willing to revisit it if appropriate during the trial. Thus the tape is temporarily quashed. When the prosecution asked if the judge had ruled on the Constitutional question, Shumate said it was possible for him to avoid it, so he was going to do just that. (Loius Godfrey)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Warren Jeffs Trial: Day 1

[News] St. George, UT - With the opening arguments in the trial of Warren Jeffs slated for this afternoon (the final jury--eight members and four alternates--were being selected this morning), it's a good time to take a closer look at the actual charges that Jeffs faces.

As has been reported over and over again, Jeffs is not on trial for polygamy (Judge James Shumate reemphasized yesterday that, "Polygamy has nothing to do with the case"), but that he is charged with two counts of Rape as an Accomplice. But what has received little attention is what those charges actually mean.

"It's a kind of a case of creative charging, because in reality there are no charges that are a perfect fit for the crime Warren Jeffs allegedly committed," says Daniel Medwed a professor at Utah's S.J. Quinny School of Law, where he specializes in criminal procedure.

Rape as an accomplice, as defined in the original indictment against Jeffs, is a combination of that Utah's Rape of Minor statute, and the state's Criminal Responsibility statute. "And, by facilitating these underage 'celestial marriages,' that is, in essence, what Jeffs [allegedly] did. But," Medwed adds, "The charges are not a good fit in that Rape as an Accomplice is usually prosecuted when it is rape in the forcible sense, as opposed to the statutory sense." Meaning that it is usually the explicit assistance of sexual battery, as opposed to assisting in the enticement of sex with a minor, which the Rape of Minor statute hinges on.

There is precedent though for Utah using these charges to prosecute quasi-religious 'spiritual marriages.' In 1997, John Perry Chaney was convicted of rape as an accomplice for marring his then-14 year-old daughter to a 48 year-old man. The prosecutor in that case, Craig Barlow of the Utah Attorney General's office, is now assisting the prosecution in the Jeffs case.

But because of the unique context in which the Rape as an Accomplice charge has been applied in both the Chaney and Jeffs cases, it has led some, including Jeffs's lawyers, to cry religious persecution.

"I think there is a strong argument to be made that this is somewhat of malicious prosecution," says Medwed. "It's not totally clear if these celestial marriages were a license for sex, and while it doesn't seem very consensual, we also aren't going after the high school senior who introduces a classmate to a freshman girl."

The Washington County Attorney's office declined to respond specifically to Professor Medwed's comments, but spokesman Brian Filter did say that a number of this issues had already been addressed in pretrial hearings (including a motion by the defense challenging the validity of the Rape of a Minor statute, on the grounds that it was too vague, which was dismissed by Judge Shumate). "We're going to present argument in the proper forum," says Filter, "In court."

"All it takes is one juror who cringes at the perceived notion of religious persecution, and that's a mistrial that could result in an acquittal," says Medwed. "Don't underestimate how hard this case could be for the prosecution."

Which leads back to a rumor that has been flying around Utah's legal community for several months now, that the state's case could be shaky. The rumor stems from U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman's decision, apparently at the state's request, to indict Jeffs on federal unlawful flight charges, a rarity when the defendant is facing much more saver charges (unlawful flight carries a maximum five-year sentence). Nothing has come along to substantiate this rumor, but it continues to persist.

"This is a risky case for both sides. If the prosecution loses, it could reinvigorate the FLDS, not to mention embarrass those involved. For the defense, the stakes in a rape trial couldn't be higher," says Medwed. "I really wouldn't be surprised if we saw some sort of last minute plea deal, possibly on lesser financial charges." (Louis Godfrey)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Law & Order: FLDS

[News] St. George, UT - It seems like everyone in Washington County got called for jury duty last week, including my grandmother. Three hundred summonses were sent out, creating a pool of potential jurors to hear the case against FLDS Church Prophet Warren Jeffs, an unusually high number for a very unusual case. Jeffs faces two counts of rape as an accomplice, for allegedly conducting a spiritual marriage between a 14-year-old girl and an older man.

“Let me just say, I think it is going to be almost impossible for them to find a jury that is completely unbiased. In general, Warren Jeffs is completely despised,” says a Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney, who asked me not to use his name. “That said, selecting a jury is an incredibly complex task, and there is real strategy that goes into how you build the foundation of your case in the minds of the jury from the very beginning.”

The very beginning is a 75-part questionnaire—constructed by both the prosecution and the defense team—that probed the respondent’s education level, general feelings about the criminal justice system and media habits. But, naturally, the bulk of the questions focused on religious attitudes. Three examples:

No. 17: Under the law, a person’s religious beliefs do not excuse compliance with the criminal laws prohibiting non-consensual sexual intercourse. Are you willing to accept and abide by this rule of law? (Yes or No)

No. 20: Are you currently a practicing member of the LDS Church? (Yes or No)

No. 62: The Practice of polygamy is not an issue in this case. But, polygamy or plural marriage is a central belief of the FLDS Community. Are you comfortable setting aside any feelings you may have regarding polygamy and reaching a verdict based solely on the evidence presented in court? (Yes or No)

As of the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 75 potential jurors had been eliminated due their questioner responses. In addition to that, seven others have been excused based on follow up interviews. Those follow-up interviews, which are still being conducted as of this post, are being held in the chambers of Judge James Schumate, with Jeffs’s lawyers, the prosecution, a small group of reporters, and Jeffs himself present (who, in his gray suite and gray-and-white tie, has apparently been quite animated during these sessions).

According to the reporters, most of the follow-up questions stick pretty closely to the questionere, except when Walter Bugden, one of Jeffs’s lawyers, goes into explicit explanations of FLDS practice and doctrine, and then closely gauging the jurors’ reaction.

“A defense attorney hopes that if a juror is going to be overly biased, it will be pretty obvious, and the judge will exclude them,” says that same unnamed Salt Lake defense attorney. “But once you find one that you think will be able to fairly hear that case—that isn’t convinced that Warren Jeffs is the devil incarnate—a good defense attorney will try to get his case out there. The questions he will ask will be built on the presumption of the case he is trying to make. I can’t stress how important this is.”

“Basically,” he continues, “You are getting the jury thinking the right way before the trial ever begins.” (Louis Godfrey)

Music ... It Rocks

[Music] Technology is not my strongest point, but when rumors about our new Website started floating around the office I was the first to suggest we adhere to a strict routine of daily blogging. How hard can it be, I said. We write for a living! We have email and MySpace accounts and friends with iTunes! Then the server started acting up and I quickly lost my patience with and faith in the Internet. I focused all my energies on City Weekly's print edition, entertaining the grand illusion that all of our readers, like my quarter-life crisis/end of Generation X-era friends, prefer to flip through the paper over cups of fair-trade espresso, hoping that the green java will somehow balance out the gratuitous use of nature's blank slate.

Things were great until last Sunday when MTV aired the VMAS, its annual awards show. After watching Britney Spears' catatonic striptease, it once again became painfully clear just how important it is for music lovers/critics over 20 to champion the underdogs--the artists who actually play their instruments, eat Ramen and soy cheese, tour in a beat-up van, wear clothes (sometimes the same clothes for months on end), live in a beat-up van, write innovativ lyrics, and yes, even play the glockenspiel, for as much as I hate that precious instrument its role in contemporary indie rock is much more welcome than the ubiquitous drum machines, back-up dancers and faux-hawks that rule the airwaves. On that note, I invite CW readers to get involved by checking our website for exclusive show reviews (including a forthcoming Domster take on Arcade Fire's random Thanksgiving Point performance Sept. 26), CD reviews and random music news. And when we slack off because the server is slower than Miss Teen South Carolina, give us hell.

In the meantime, here's a taste of more off-the-radar activity by one of my recent favorites, Austin's White Denim :

(Jamie Gadette)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hey, My Breast-Cancer Awareness Message is Up *Here*

[News-ish] America's fraternities are looking out for women's breasts yet again--only this time, it's slightly less creepy than usual.

A press release to the City Weekly offices has alerted us to the imminent arrival of the Jugs Across America Tour. On Wednesday, Sept. 12, a 53-foot semi trailer will take up residence in downtown Salt Lake City for what is decribed as a "Temple Square visit." [UPDATED 9/11: The location is now identified as Lumpy's on Highland Dr., approximately 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.] It's a fund-raising effort for Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapters and breast cancer research. And how, you ask, can you contribute to the cause? Why, by buying a pair of wall-mounted tits, of course.

Jingle Jugs--in the fine tradition of the "singing bass on a plaque"--play whimsical songs and a breast cancer awareness message, all while life-like breasts shimmy provocatively. Now you can get your crude novelty gift with a clear conscience. Everybody's a winner. (Scott Renshaw)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Friday Letters Round-Up

(Brandon Burt)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Thanks for Clearing That Up

[Revisionist History] Favorite correction of the day from the Deseret Morning News:
"Due to an editing error, a story on the Mountain Meadows massacre in Saturday's editions reported that historical accounts have 'erroneously' portrayed Brigham Young as the one who ordered the massacre. That sentence should have run as the bylined reporter wrote it: Other historical accounts—and a new fictionalized feature film, September Dawn—have portrayed Young as the one who ordered the massacre."

So glad they cleared up that Brigham-with-blood-on-his-hands thing! (Holly Mullen)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Putrid America Is Doomed!

[Wrath o' God] Just when you thought Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas' crazy train couldn't run any further off the rails, Fred Phelps & Co. are bringing their Tragical Misery Tour to Utah to protest … a memorial service for the six Huntington miners scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 9 at Canyon View Junior High. Yes, the righteous folk behind sent City Weekly (a heathen organization on The List, we would hope) the following press release: "WBC to picket memorial service for six miners entombed forever in a Utah mountain by a sovereign God … In religious protest and warning: 'Be not deceived; God is not mocked,' Gal. 6:7. God hates fags and fag enablers! Ergo: God hates Utah and America, and is punishing sodomite, idolatrous, Mormon Utah and sodomite America with one disaster after another—from 9/11, Iraq, Katrina, fires, tornados, earthquakes, etc.—to worse and more of it coming. Putrid America is doomed." Well, obviously—but maybe God's gunning for Fred Phelps and keeps missing. (Bill Frost)

September Dawn: Box Office Update

[Film] Over the Labor Day weekend, the skin-crawlingly awful Mountain Meadows Massacre dramatization September Dawn raked in $129,000--an average of $310 (or approximately 41 paying customers) per theater.

After 11 days in release, the film has filled its coffers with just over $1 million on the march toward recouping its $11 million budget.

Every once in a great while, market economics brings justice. (Scott Renshaw)