The $16 Million Lawsuit Warren Jeffs From Preaching Evil Lost Against A Child Bride

In a Utah lawsuit from 2017, religious leader Warren Jeffs lost millions of dollars to a former child bride. As Deadline reports, Jeffs' story will be told in a four-episode Peacock original show called "Preaching Evil: A Wife on the Run With Warren Jeffs."

Warren Jeffs leads a highly-criticized segment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (often shortened to FLDS), which has chosen to stick with polygamous practices (via CNN). The Southern Poverty Law Center has actually considered the FLDS a hate group since 2005 because of the "racist, anti-LGBT, misogynistic teachings" that flourished under Jeffs' leadership. As the official Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints notes, polygamy is not allowed, and groups that practice polygamy are not affiliated with the LDS.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that Jeffs had as many as 78 wives — some of whom were underage and forced into sexually abusive situations in the name of the FLDS' religious beliefs. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Forced into a marriage

Some of Warren Jeffs' former child brides, now adults, won a victory in a lawsuit against him in September 2017, about 12 years after the lawsuit was first brought against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader (via Southern Poverty Law Center).

Jeffs must pay $16 million to an FLDS member, Elissa Wall, who was forced to marry her cousin when she was only 14 years old, as NBC News reports. She was forced into the marriage in 2001. According to St. George News, Wall will be granted $4 million in damages and $12 million in punitive damages. Wall's legal team believes this ruling could lead to further lawsuits — and could even lead to FLDS property being seized (via the Salt Lake Tribune).

St. George News reports that as a member of the FLDS, 14-year-old Elissa Wall was forced to marry her cousin, 19-year-old Allen Steed, in 2001. Their marriage was not only upheld by the FLDS church but Wall and Steed also had sexual relations in the hopes of bearing a child, sticking to the strict church doctrine. Wall had miscarriages and one stillbirth as a result of the abuse. 

Helping FLDS members leave

Warren Jeffs is currently incarcerated in Texas. Since 2006, he has been serving a life sentence plus 20 years for raping two children he was married to (via the Salt Lake Tribune). The girls were 12 and 15 years old at the time and were among a group of at least 20 other children who were subjected to child abuse and sexual assaults by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Since the verdict has been finalized, Elissa Wall plans to use the money she gained from the lawsuit to help other FLDS members who want to leave the group (per NBC News). In a statement after the verdict was announced, Wall said that she is now done with this chapter of her life and plans to focus on raising her children and creating a brighter future for their family.