A Utah judge has ordered that a cult that broke away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must pay a former child bride $16 million in damages.
Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been ordered to pay the large sum to Elissa Wall for punitive and general damages.
Third District Judge Keith Kelly ruled that Jeffs had "absolute control, power and authority" over her life "so that he could require her, as a young girl, to enter into an unlawful spiritual marriage."
"... the conduct of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS Church, as alleged herein, was outrageous and intolerable in that it offended the generally accepted standards of decency and morality," wrote Judge Kelly, as quoted by Deseret News.
Deseret News also noted that "neither Jeffs nor the FLDS church offered a defense to Wall's claims that she had been forced to marry an adult church member when she was 14 years old."
"She was then required by Jeffs and the FLDS Church to 'live together as husband and wife' with the man and 'to produce children.' That man, Allen Steed, was 19 at the time of the forced marriage and also Wall's cousin," noted Deseret News.
"For presiding over the illegal marriage, Jeffs was convicted in 2007 as an accomplice to rape, but the case was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court in 2010 in a ruling that the instructions given to the jury during his prosecution were faulty."
A splinter group from the LDS Church, FLDS practiced polygamy under the belief that it guaranteed salvation. For a time, they had a 1,600-acre compound in Texas called Yearning for Zion.
In November 2012, Texas moved to seize the large property, stating in an affidavit that the FLDS compound was a source of sexual assault on minors and bigamy.
"Warren Steed Jeffs orchestrated the purchase of the suspected place for the purpose of facilitating and perpetrating criminal offenses, including bigamy, sexual assault, and aggravated sexual assault," the affidavit read, as reported by ABC News in 2012.
A former member of FLDS, Wall provided courtroom testimony in the trial that led to the conviction of Jeffs in September 2007.
Wall wrote about her experiences living as a member of the FLDS in a best-selling 2009 memoir titled Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs.
"At once shocking, heartbreaking, and inspiring, Wall's story of subjugation and survival exposes the darkness at the root of this rebel offshoot of the Mormon faith," the book's description reads on Amazon.