Polygamous chief had not less than 20 wives, a lot of them minors, and punished disobedient followers, FBI says


The chief of small polygamous group close to the Arizona-Utah border had taken not less than 20 wives, most of them minors, and punished followers who didn’t deal with him as a prophet, newly filed federal courtroom paperwork present.

Samuel Bateman was a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, till he left to begin his personal small offshoot group. He was supported financially by male followers who additionally gave up their very own wives and youngsters to be Bateman’s wives, in response to an FBI affidavit.

Three ladies embrace earlier than they’re faraway from the house of Samuel Bateman, following his arrest in Colorado City, Ariz., on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. Seven had been faraway from the Bateman house, in addition to two others from one other home as a part of the investigation. 

Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune by way of AP

The doc filed Friday offers new perception about what investigators have present in a case that first grew to become public in August. It accompanied costs of kidnapping and impeding a foreseeable prosecution in opposition to three of Bateman’s wives – Naomi Bistline, Donnae Barlow and Moretta Rose Johnson.

Bistline and Barlow are scheduled to look in federal Justice of the Peace courtroom in Flagstaff on Wednesday. Johnson is awaiting extradition from Washington state.

The girls are accused of fleeing with eight of Bateman’s youngsters, who had been positioned in Arizona state custody earlier this yr. The youngsters had been discovered final week a whole bunch of miles away in Spokane, Washington.

Bateman was arrested in August when somebody noticed small fingers within the hole of a trailer he was hauling by Flagstaff. He posted bond however was arrested once more and charged with obstructing justice in a federal investigation into whether or not youngsters had been being transported throughout state traces for sexual exercise.

Court information allege that Bateman, 46, engaged in baby intercourse trafficking and polygamy, however none of his present costs relate to these allegations. Polygamy is against the law in Arizona however was decriminalized in Utah in 2020.

Arizona Department of Child Services spokesman Darren DaRonco and FBI spokesman Kevin Smith declined to touch upon the case Tuesday. Bistline’s legal professional did not reply to a request for remark, and Barlow’s legal professional declined to remark. Johnson did not have a publicly listed legal professional.

The FBI affidavit filed within the girls’s case largely facilities on Bateman, who proclaimed himself a prophet in 2019. Bateman says he was instructed by former FLDS chief Warren Jeffs to invoke the “Spirit of God on these people.” The affidavit particulars specific sexual acts that Bateman and his followers engaged in to meet “Godly duties.”

Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas jail for baby intercourse abuse associated to underage marriages.

Criminal protection legal professional Michael Piccarreta, who represented Jeffs on Arizona costs that had been dismissed, mentioned the state has a historical past of attempting to take a stand in opposition to polygamy by charging comparatively minor offenses to construct greater instances.

“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 mentioned.

This undated picture supplied by the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office exhibits Samuel Bateman.

/ AP

The workplace of Bateman’s legal professional within the federal case, Adam Zickerman, declined to remark Tuesday.

Bateman lived in Colorado City amongst a patchwork of religious members of the polygamous FLDS, ex-church members and those that do not observe the beliefs. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however the mainstream church deserted the observe in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it.

Bateman usually traveled to Nebraska the place a few of his different followers lived and internationally to Canada and Mexico for conferences.

When Bateman was arrested earlier this yr, he instructed his followers to acquire passports and to delete messages despatched by an encrypted system, authorities mentioned.

“Bateman did so in order to obstruct, influence, and impede an investigation and prosecution in federal court,” federal prosecutors said when saying the indictment in September.

He demanded that his followers confess publicly for any indiscretions, and shared these confessions broadly, in response to the FBI affidavit. He claimed the punishments, which ranged from a outing to public shaming and sexual exercise, got here from the Lord, the affidavit states.

According to the Justice Department, Bateman was charged with destruction of information or an try to destroy information in an official continuing; tampering or making an attempt to tamper with an official continuing; and destruction of information in a federal investigation.

The youngsters recognized by their initials in courtroom paperwork have mentioned little to authorities. The three youngsters discovered within the trailer Bateman was hauling by Flagstaff – which had a makeshift rest room, a sofa, tenting chairs and no air flow – instructed authorities they did not have any well being or medical wants, a police report said.

None of the women positioned in state custody in Arizona disclosed sexual abuse by Bateman throughout forensic interviews, although one mentioned she was current throughout sexual exercise, in response to the FBI affidavit. But the women usually wrote in journals that had been seized by the FBI. In them, a number of of the women referenced intimate interactions with Bateman. Authorities imagine the older ladies influenced the youthful ones to not speak about Bateman, the FBI mentioned.


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