Jury Finds Polygamous-Sect Leader Warren Jeffs Guilty on Sex Charges

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

ST. GEORGE, Utah —  A jury found polygamous-sect leader Warren Jeffs guilty Tuesday of being an accomplice to rape for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin.Jeffs, the president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints since 2002, faced two counts of rape by accomplice in connection to the arranged marriage at a Caliente, Nev., motel room in 2001.

Jeffs, 51, wearing a suit with a blue striped tie, looked straight ahead with little reaction when the verdict was read.

The now 21-year-old woman testified during the trial that the couple were married for at least a month before they had intercourse, her husband telling her it was “time for you to be a wife and do your duty.”

“My entire body was shaking. I was so scared,” she testified. “He just laid me on the bed and had sex.”

Jeffs previously on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, is viewed by followers as a prophet who talks to God while ex-church members say he demands perfect obedience. Jeffs could get life in prison.

Authorities captured Jeffs in a 2006 traffic stop outside Las Vegas after he was on the run for 18 months.

The verdict was postponed earlier on Tuesday when Fifth District Judge James Shumate replaced a female juror with an alternate juror who had also watched the trial.

The jury deliberated about 16 hours over three days.

Jeffs succeeded his father in 2002 as president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Former members say he rules with an iron fist, demanding perfect obedience from followers and exercising the right to arrange marriages as well as break them up and assign new spouses.

The church has a large complex near the West Texas town of Eldorado, about 40 miles south of San Angelo.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Update Jessica Lumsford: John Couey Receives Death Sentence for the Murder of Jessica Lunsford

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fox News – A Florida judge sentenced John Couey to death Friday for kidnapping, raping and murdering 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.Couey, a convicted sex offender, buried Lunsford alive in two black trash bags with her hands bound and her favorite purple stuffed dolphin tucked in her arms, Circuit Judge Richard Howard said. Lunsford’s body was found in a grave in Couey’s yard about three weeks after she disappeared.“He secured her fate with a second bag,” Howard told the court.Howard called the murder “cold and calculated,” that caused a “slow, suffering and conscious death.”Jessica’s grandmother sat in the courtroom with other family and friends, wearing a pendant with Jessica’s photo on it around her neck.

A Miami jury convicted Couey in March of taking the girl from her bedroom to his nearby trailer in 2005, where he raped her and buried her alive.    [ FullStory  ]

Update: Alleged Child Rapist’s Case Under Appeal for Dismissal – Stating “Improper Decision to Dismiss” as State felt accused understood English therefore did not need an interpreter

1:45PM 7/23/07

The following information was given today at a news conference on Fox News.

Fox News aired the news conference when State’s Attorney John McCarthy reported his office was appealing the court’s decision of dismissing this case on the grounds that it was an “improper decision” to dismiss the case due to lack of finding an interpreter and in doing so delayed the accused’s right to a speedy trial. 

The reason for this is the fact the accused does speak English.  He sought assylum here in the states where he attended and graduated from high school and continued on to community college for 2 years.  It is the law you can not graduate from high school without being able to speak English.  Since the accused could speak English the court was wrong in delaying the trial for 3 years while trying to find an interpreter.   Even after one had stepped forward just recently the judge still dismissed the case. 

The terrible part is if this case is not allowed to be brought back to trial this could set a precedent for many immigrants whose native language is NOT English.

Alleged Child Rapist Goes Free Because Court Can’t Find Interpreter

Md. Judge Dismisses Sex-Abuse Charges

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 22, 2007

This is without a doubt one of the worst, if not THE worst case, that shows the quality or “lack of” in our judicial system to allow something as horrible as this to occur.  Not only did it allow this to occur but in my mind this may very well have set a precedent for anyone where English is not their native language. 

Washington Post – Full story 

A 7-year-old girl said she had been raped and repeatedly molested over the course of a year. Police in Montgomery County, acting on information from a relative, soon arrested a Liberian immigrant living in Gaithersburg. They marshaled witnesses and DNA evidence to prepare for trial.

What was missing — for much of the nearly three years that followed — was an interpreter fluent in the suspect’s native language. A judge recently dropped the charges, not because she found that Mahamu Kanneh had been wrongly accused but because repeated delays in the case had, in her view, violated his right to a speedy trial.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in a long time,” Katherine D. Savage said from the bench Tuesday, noting that she was mindful of “the gravity of this case and the community’s concern about offenses of this type.”

Loretta E. Knight, the Circuit Court clerk responsible for finding interpreters, said her office searched exhaustively for a speaker of Vai, a tribal language spoken in West Africa.

[Kanneh was granted asylum in the United States, according to State’s Attorney John McCarthy. A conviction could have led to deportation proceedings.]

[Kanneh was arrested in August 2004 after witnesses told police that he raped and repeatedly sexually molested the girl, a relative.

In a charging document, Detective Omar Hasan wrote that the girl “attempted to physically stop the behavior from the defendant, but was unsuccessful.” Hasan wrote that Kanneh threatened the young girl “with not being able to leave the apartment unless she engaged in sexual behavior with the defendant.”]                                                                                                          

Jessica Lunsford’s Killer Fights Death Penalty at Hearing

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

INVERNESS, Fla. —  The man convicted of kidnapping and raping 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford before swaddling her in garbage bags and burying her alive in his yard was likely faking mentally retardation in earlier tests, a court-appointed psychologist said Tuesday.

John Evander Couey, 48, who spent part of his murder trial earlier this year drawing in coloring books, “is not mentally retarded,” clinical psychologist Gregory Prichard testified at a pre-sentencing hearing Tuesday. Prichard said the convicted killer has an IQ of 78, slightly above the 70 level generally considered retarded.

At the end of Tuesday’s seven-hour pre-sentencing hearing, Jessica’s father, Mark Lunsford, took the witness stand and spoke directly to the man convicted of killing his daughter.

“I hope you hear her cries as you try to sleep at night,” Lunsford said, wiping tears. “I hope you see the tears run down her face as she asked you to go home. I hope you spend the rest of your life in fear of death. You will never hurt another child.”

Lunsford then asked Circuit Judge Richard Howard to sentence Couey to death.

Sentencing has tentatively been set for Aug. 10.

Howard must first weigh the prosecution and defense arguments on Couey’s mental competence. A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits the execution of mentally retarded people.

During more than six hours of testimony, Prichard said it is easier to fake mental retardation than intelligence. He said standardized tests and interviews showed Couey was intelligent enough to manage money, take care of himself and even keep secrets.

Assistant Public Defender Daniel Lewan spent most of the hearing hours challenging Prichard’s assessment. Lewan said other experts have shown Couey is mildly retarded with an IQ of 64. He asked the judge to rely on the earlier testimony.

Lewan is trying to get a life sentence. Prosecutors want Couey executed.

In March, a Miami jury brushed aside Lewan’s pleas for mercy, voting 10-2 to recommend that Couey be executed for Jessica’s slaying. Florida law puts the final sentencing decision in the hands of a judge, who must give great weight to a jury recommendation.

The jury convicted Couey of taking Jessica in February 2005 from her bedroom to his nearby trailer, where he raped her and buried her alive. Despite a massive search, the third-grader’s body was found about three weeks after she disappeared in a grave in Couey’s yard, about 150 yards from her own home.

Couey, already a convicted sex offender when he committed the crime, was arrested in Georgia and confessed to the killing. That confession was thrown out as evidence because Couey did not have a lawyer present.

The trial was moved to Miami because of intense media coverage in Citrus County.

N.Y. Diocese Loses Sex Abuse Lawsuit

Published: May 19, 2007

Filed at 7:31 a.m. ET

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — Several civil lawsuits have arisen from allegations of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church, but few have gone to trial. Most were settled out of court.

In what victims’ lawyers called a powerful message to the church, a jury on Friday found the nation’s sixth-largest Catholic diocese and a church parish negligent in a case involving a youth minister who repeatedly raped and sodomized teenagers in his care over several years. The jury awarded the two victims a combined $11.4 million in damages.

”Over 99 percent of the cases that have been brought since 2002 have settled in the quiet of lawyers’ offices, and none of these cases have seen the light of day,” said Paul Mones, an attorney for the victims. ”This case has really shown exactly how these pedophiles operate, exactly how the church, unfortunately, has responded.”

The jury found that the Diocese of Rockville Centre, one of its churches and a pastor were negligent in the hiring and retention of the youth minister who carried out the abuse. The jury cleared the defendants of being negligent in the supervision of the minister.

One of the victims’ lawyers, Michael Dowd, said the decision — announced in a hushed Long Island courtroom — showed that ”the church can no longer be reckless in the safety of children.”

A spokesman for the diocese, Sean Dolan, declined to discuss the verdict immediately. He said church officials hadn’t decided whether to appeal.

The trial included graphic testimony from a female victim who told the jury that former youth minister Matthew Maiello seduced her and eventually had sex with her in a variety of locations on church property — including church pews and the elementary school principal’s office — as well as at their homes.

The Associated Press generally does not name victims of sexual abuse.

Maiello, who now lives in Connecticut, pleaded guilty to third-degree rape and sodomy in 2003, admitting he abused four children. He served more than two years in prison.

Since Maiello did not contest any of the allegations against him, the focus of the monthlong civil trial became St. Raphael’s Church in East Meadow, its pastor, the Rev. Thomas Haggerty, and the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

The jury awarded the female victim about $5.5 million in damages and a second, male victim about $5.9 million.

The two, now 23, said Maiello repeatedly molested them from 1999 to 2002, starting when they were 15. They said church officials failed to act when confronted by reports that the youth minister was acting inappropriately.

After the trial, the woman hailed the verdict as a vindication for her and other abuse victims.

”The reason for seeking justice in a civil trial was to ensure that the truth finally came out and that this might prevent the abuse from happening to children everywhere,” she said.

Brian Davey, an attorney representing the pastor, the parish and the diocese, insisted that Maiello alone was responsible for the sexual abuse.

But Dowd questioned why Haggerty did not pursue more information after receiving a negative job recommendation for Maiello from a youth minister at a church at which Maiello had previously worked. Dowd also said Haggerty failed to check on Maiello’s educational background and other qualifications for the $20,000-a-year youth ministry position.

Prosecutors said they were prevented from pursuing criminal charges because statutes of limitations had expired long ago.

The U.S. Conference of Bishops estimates abuse-related costs from lawsuits have exceeded $1.5 billion. On Long Island, a grand jury found nearly two dozen cases of abuse going back decades in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, with 1.3 million Catholics in 134 parishes.

Information source: nytimes.com