Back in the day, the law was intended as a bulwark against government abuses. It has now become an implement of government, to be utilized by all-knowing rulers for the “greater good”—the founders’ Blackstonian view of the law has been supplanted by a Benthamism that encourages ambitious prosecutors to discard a defendant’s rights.
Add the aggravating circumstances of a highly militarized federal law enforcement that shares the judiciary’s contempt for the Rights of Englishmen, and is abetted by a public dimmed by statist schools and media—and one has a recipe for disaster.
A mouthful maybe, but something to ponder as another prosecutorial team gathers steam, this time in Utah, where the state, feds in tow, has been pursuing Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
There's a lot not to like about polygamists, but creepy is not necessarily criminal. The charges in Jeffs’ arrest warrant and affidavit are positively risible. He’s accused of being an accomplice to rape, no less. Did he hold down the victim so the perpetrator could have his way with her? No he didn’t. The rape charges against Jeffs stem from his having allegedly arranged the marriages of underage girls, not from violence he initiated against the complainant. And in particular, Jeffs is accused of encouraging a minor, and member of his church, to consummate her marriage. But does urging someone to engage in what one perceives to be marital sex amount to being complicit in a rape, a very brutal crime indeed? And by this standard, aren’t the girl’s parents also indictable? If the girl was raped, then surely it is the alleged rapist alone who should be investigated for forcing himself on her.
The law is confusing. Although polygamy is banned by the state constitutions of Utah and Arizona, it isn’t a crime and is not prosecuted. Furthermore, provided parental consent is obtained and the marriage voluntary and in the best interests of the minor, the law does not prohibit minors from marrying. More material, and as Court TV has reported, “Under state law, it is a crime to have sexual relations with anyone under the age of 18 unless the parties are legally married to each other. Because a polygamous marriage can never be legal, the men marrying teenagers as second, third or fourth wives [are] guilty of statutory rape, or sexual conduct with a minor.” Thus a determination of rape here rests not so much on whether evidence exists that a woman was forced to have sex against her will, but on her position in the harem!
Shifting the emphasis away from the crucial matter—did a rape occur—to artificial cut-off dates will not do. After all, an 18-year-old can just as easily be raped as a 16-year-old.
The state’s witness has since retracted her accusation, a fact that has also gone unreported by media too busy demonizing Jeffs and deifying Katie Couric. Matt Smith, the crusading Mohave county attorney, has held the recalcitrant witness in contempt and confined her against her will to a “shelter” until she changes her mind and testifies against Jeffs and her “husband.”
During her testimony before a grand jury, moreover, the witness was grilled about the role of women in the community and the opportunities, or lack thereof, they are afforded (as well as whether dating or text messaging a suitor was permitted prior to marriage). To all appearances, the object of this prosecution is the sect—its beliefs and way of life. The rape charges against Jeffs are nothing but a ruse.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an established sect. Many FLDS families in the Utah and Arizona communities have lived there since well before the two states were formed. The denomination is wealthy and owns large additional compounds in Nevada, Texas, Colorado, South Dakota, and British Columbia. Above all, FLDS polygamists are peaceful people, engaged in what appear to be consensual living arrangements. Yet the federal government has described Jeffs, who was unarmed and did not resist arrest, as extremely dangerous. In May, the polygamist was placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, alongside Bin Laden.
As the polygamists become part of the media’s demonology, we’d do well to remember another crusading prosecutor, Attorney General Janet Reno. She too made a name for herself as a “champion” for children. Think back to the day-care child sex abuse witch hunt that gripped the nation in the 1980s, and in which she was embroiled. Over 400 children, coached by hysterical mothers and lethal therapists (most of whom have retained their professional credentials), accused day-care workers, parents, and teachers of the kind of perversities that would’ve made the Marquis de Sade blush.
These accusations (also the sole evidence in court) would’ve also befuddled the infamous sexual sadist, because they involved copulation with clowns, spaceships, robots, and mythical creatures. Still, because “children don’t lie” (and many adults are pig-ignorant), victims were imprisoned absent corroborative evidence—no blood, semen or evidence of battery was ever produced.
Reno, unburdened by fact, presided over one such show trial from her neck of the woods in Dade County, Miami. The case served as a professional stepping stone—she went on to commit far greater crimes against another cult in Waco.
As hungry prosecutors circle a compound of helpless men, women and children, let us pause to remember and revile Reno.
©2006 By Ilana Mercer