Ex-child bride seeks to collect millions from Utah polygamist leader

Posted at 6:10 PM, May 15, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY -- A former child bride stands to collect millions in her lawsuit against polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.

At a court hearing Monday, Elissa Wall's lawyers pressed the judge to allow them to collect a default judgment against Jeffs and the Fundamentalist LDS Church. Neither has responded to Wall's lawsuit.

Wall is suing Jeffs and the FLDS Church over her marriage at age 14 to her cousin. Jeffs presided over the ceremony. She was the star witness in Utah's prosecution of Jeffs on a charge of rape as an accomplice (that was later overturned by the state supreme court).

For the past 10 years, Wall has pursued the personal injury lawsuit. With default judgments secured, she could now collect millions.

Elissa Wall and her then-husband, Allen Steed. Wall is suing over her marriage at age 14 in a ceremony presided by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.

"I assume you’re asking for at least a seven figure amount?" Third District Court Judge Keith Kelly asked Wall's lawyer on Monday.

"That's correct," attorney Alan Mortensen replied.

Mortensen told FOX 13 outside of court he would submit papers to the judge with a specific dollar amount. In her initial lawsuit, Wall sought at least $15 million.

Even though Jeffs and the FLDS Church have not responded to the lawsuit at all, Judge Kelly said he wanted to give them one last chance.

"Given the amount of money, even though there is a default it’s not out of the realm of possibility one of the two defaulting parties might send an attorney here," the judge said. "They don’t contest liability, but when it comes to damages they want to have their say."

FLDS leader Warren Jeffs in a 2014 deposition from the Texas prison where he is serving a life sentence.

Mortensen said he would send a summons to Jeffs, who is currently serving a life sentence in Texas on child sex assault related to underage "marriages." He also told the judge he would try to track down any lawyer who previously represented the FLDS Church.

The judge set a July hearing to take testimony from Wall about the harm that the marriage caused her. Then he will decide how much she could get.

Collecting on those damages could involve Wall and her attorneys pursuing judgments in other states, where the FLDS Church has scattered. The state of Texas seized the "Yearning for Zion" ranch after Jeffs was convicted. The Utah-based polygamous sect has properties in South Dakota and Colorado, among other places.

Wall previously settled part of her lawsuit with the court-run United Effort Plan Trust, which was the real-estate arm of the FLDS Church.

"She hopes that through this default judgment, she can help enact change through financial pressures and help clean up the mess that Warren Jeffs has caused," Mortensen told FOX 13 outside of court.