Polygamy leader Samuel Bateman had 20 wives, many of them minors, and punished disobedient followers, the FBI said.

The leader of a small polygamous group near the Arizona-Utah border took at least 20 wives, most of them minors, and punished followers who did not treat him as a prophet. That’s what the newly filed federal court documents show.

Samuel Bateman He was a former member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), until he left to start his own small splinter group. He was financially supported by male supporters who had given up their children.

Three girls hug Samuel Bateman before he is removed from his home following his arrest on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 in Colorado, Arizona. part of an investigation.

Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP

Documents filed Friday offer new insights into what investigators found in the case, which was first made public in August. , was involved in charges of obstruction of abduction and foreseeable prosecution against Moretta Rose Johnson.

Bistline and Barlow are scheduled to appear in federal magistrates court in Flagstaff on Wednesday. Johnson is awaiting extradition from Washington state.

The women are accused of fleeing with eight of Bateman’s children, who were placed in Arizona custody earlier this year. The children were found last week in Spokane, Washington, hundreds of miles away.

Bateman was arrested in August when he found a tiny finger in a gap in a trailer he was driving through Flagstaff. He posted bail, but was arrested again and charged with obstruction of justice in a federal investigation into whether the children were being transported across state lines for sex.

Bateman, 46, has been implicated in child sex trafficking and polygamy, according to court records, but none of his current charges are related to those allegations. Polygamy is illegal in Arizona, but he was decriminalized in Utah in 2020.

Darren Dalonco, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Child Services, and Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the FBI, declined to comment on the case on Tuesday. Attorneys declined to comment. Johnson did not have a listed attorney.

The FBI affidavits filed in the women’s cases focus primarily on Bateman, who declared himself a prophet in 2019. Former FLDS leader Warren Jeffs To evoke “the Spirit of God upon these people.” The affidavit details the sexually explicit acts that Bateman and his supporters committed in fulfilling their “devout duty.”

Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child molestation charges related to underage marriage.

Criminal defense attorney Michael Piccarreta, who represented Jeffs in the dismissed Arizona charges, said Arizona has a policy of banning polygamy by prosecuting relatively minor crimes and filing larger lawsuits. He said he had a history of trying to stand up.

“Time will tell if this is the same tactic used in the past or if there is more to the story,” he said.

This undated photo provided by the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office shows Samuel Bateman.


The office of Adam Zickerman, Bateman’s attorney in the federal lawsuit, declined comment on Tuesday.

Bateman lived in the city of Colorado among a patchwork of devout members of the polygamous FLDS, former church members, and non-practisers of the faith. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of Jesus of Latter-day Saints and his Church of Christ, but the mainstream church abandoned the practice in his 1890 and now strictly prohibits it.

Bateman often traveled to Nebraska, where some of his followers lived, and internationally to Canada and Mexico for conferences.

When Bateman was arrested earlier this year, he instructed his supporters to obtain passports and delete messages sent via an encrypted system, officials said.

“Bateman did so to obstruct, influence and obstruct investigations and prosecutions in federal court.” federal prosecutor said when it announced the indictment in September.

According to FBI affidavits, he demanded his followers make public confessions of indiscretion and shared those confessions widely. He claimed that punishment, down to shame and sexual intercourse, came from the Lord.

According to the Justice Department, Bateman was charged with destroying records or attempting to destroy records in official proceedings. falsify or attempt to falsify any official procedure; Destruction of Records in Federal Investigations.

The children, identified by their initials in court documents, said little to authorities.The police report said three children were found in the trailer Bateman was driving through Flagstaff in time. There was a toilet, a sofa, a camping chair, and no ventilation.

According to FBI affidavits, the girls placed in state custody in Arizona did not disclose sexual abuse by Bateman during forensic interviews. often wrote to Among them, some of the girls mentioned intimate interactions with Bateman.According to the FBI, authorities have influenced older girls not to talk to younger girls about Bateman. thinking. Polygamy leader Samuel Bateman had 20 wives, many of them minors, and punished disobedient followers, the FBI said.

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