SALT LAKE CITY — A former child bride who brought a criminal prosecution against Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs has asked a judge to give her millions in a civil judgment against him.
In court papers obtained by FOX 13, Elissa Wall’s attorneys ask the judge for at least $5 million — with interest — in a default judgment against Jeffs and his polygamous church.
“Plaintiff Elissa Wall is entitled to punitive damages, which should be determined by this Court through an evidentiary hearing. If punitive damages are appropriate, the default judgment should be augmented accordingly,” her attorney Alan Mortensen wrote in his motion.
Mortensen told FOX 13 on Monday a judge would determine the appropriate amount of judgment, which could be more than the $5 million cited in court papers. They are seeking a hearing to liquidate Jeffs and the FLDS Church’s assets.
“It would include going after any properties Warren Jeffs and the FLDS Church may own, regardless of where they’re at,” he said.
In addition to properties in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., the FLDS Church has a compound in South Dakota and in British Columbia, in Canada. The state of Texas seized the FLDS Church’s “Yearning For Zion” Ranch following a 2008 raid that resulted in hundreds of children being removed from their homes (and later returned) and criminal convictions of numerous church members, including Jeffs.
Wall sued Jeffs, the FLDS Church and its real-estate holdings arm, the United Effort Plan Trust, over her marriage at age 14 to her cousin in a ceremony presided over by Jeffs. She was the star witness in Utah’s prosecution against him on a charge of rape as an accomplice (that was later overturned by the Utah Supreme Court).
The case languished in the courts for years until she resurrected it in 2014. In court documents, she sought as much as $40 million from Jeffs, the FLDS Church, and the UEP Trust. Wall reached a settlement with the court-controlled UEP Trust last year. It was taken over by the courts in 2005 over accusations that Jeffs and other top FLDS leaders mismanaged it.
Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child sex assault related to underage “marriages.” He has consistently refused to respond to lawsuits filed against him since he was sentenced. In a deposition obtained by FOX 13, Jeffs refused to answer most questions posed by attorneys.