According to court filings, the leader of a tiny polygamous sect close to the Arizona–Utah border had at least 20 wives, the majority of whom were minors, and punished adherents who did not consider him a prophet.
Before leaving to start his little branch organization, 46-year-old Samuel Bateman was a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS).
According to the FBI, he was financially supported by male followers who also abandoned their wives and children to become Bateman’s wives.
The court filing offers fresh information regarding what detectives discovered in a case that was first made public in August.
Three of Bateman’s wives were charged with kidnapping and preventing a foreseeable prosecution along with it: Naomi Bistline, Donnae Barlow, and Moretta Rose Johnson.
On Wednesday, Bistline and Barlow are due in court in Flagstaff. Johnson is awaited by Washington state for extradition.
Eight of Bateman’s children, who were earlier this year given to Arizona’s state custody, are alleged to have fled with the women.
The kids were discovered last week in Spokane, Washington, hundreds of miles away.
When someone noticed tiny fingers through the opening of a trailer that Bateman was towing through Flagstaff, Arizona, in August, he was taken into custody.
He was charged with obstructing justice in a federal inquiry into whether youngsters were being moved over state boundaries for sexual conduct after being arrested again after posting bond.
Although Bateman is currently facing no charges related to child sex trafficking or polygamy, the allegations are made in court records. The declaration describes the explicit sexual actions Bateman and his supporters committed to carrying out their “Godly obligations.”
Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child sex abuse related to underage marriages.
Criminal defense lawyer Michael Piccarreta, who represented Jeffs on Arizona charges that were dismissed, said the state has a history of trying to take a stand against polygamy by charging people for relatively minor offenses to build bigger cases.
“Whether this is the same tactic that has been used in the past or whether there’s more to the story, only time will tell,” he said.
Bateman lived in Colorado City in Arizona among a patchwork of devout members of the polygamous FLDS, ex-church members, and those who do not practice these beliefs. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it.
Bateman often traveled to Nebraska where some of his other followers lived and internationally to Canada and Mexico for conferences.
Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence in a Texas prison.
Michael Piccarreta, a criminal defense attorney, said the state has a history of trying to oppose polygamy by charging people with relatively minor offenses in order to build stronger cases. He represented Jeffs on the Arizona charges that were dropped.
Only time will tell whether this is the same strategy that has been employed in the past or whether there is more to the tale, he said.
In Colorado City, Arizona, Bateman resided beside a mosaic of devoted FLDS polygamists, ex-members of the church, and non-members. Polygamy is a holdover from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ early teachings, but the mainline church gave up the custom in 1890 and now outright forbids it.
Bateman frequently traveled for conferences both domestically in Nebraska, where several of his other followers resided, and internationally to Canada and Mexico.
Authorities claim that when Bateman was detained earlier this year, he told his followers to get passports and to delete texts received through an encrypted system.
According to the FBI affidavit, he required his followers to publicly confess to any transgressions and then widely disseminated those confessions. According to the affidavit, he insisted that these sanctions, which included “time outs,” public humiliation, and sexual activity, came from the Lord.
The children, whose initials were used in court filings, have not spoken much to the authorities. According to a police report, the three kids that were discovered in Bateman’s trailer through Flagstaff, which had a makeshift toilet, a couch, camping chairs, and no ventilation, informed officials that they had no health or medical issues.
According to the FBI affidavit, none of the girls taken into state custody in Arizona for sexual abuse by Bateman came forward during forensic questioning, however one admitted to being there when there was sexual activity.
However, the girls frequently kept journals that the FBI was able to collect. Several of the girls made mention of private encounters with Bateman in them.
The FBI reported that authorities think the older girls used influence over the younger ones to prevent discussion about Bateman.