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Former teen bride agrees to $2.75M polygamous-trust settlement in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — A woman who says polygamous leader Warren Jeffs forced her to marry her cousin when she was 14 has agreed to settle her lawsuit against the sect’s communal property trust for $2.75 million, attorneys for both sides announced Friday.

Elissa Wall sued the trust now controlled by the state to hold leaders accountable for abuses such as underage marriage, her lawyer said.

The new governing board of the trust said in a statement they appreciated that she spoke out publicly against Jeffs. Her testimony helped convict him of being an accomplice to her rape in 2007.

The settlement, which must still be approved by a judge, came after a March decision by the Utah Supreme Court that cleared the way for Wall to sue over the 2001 marriage.

Under the agreement, Wall will get $1.5 million in cash over the next 18 months, said property trust lawyer Jeffrey Shields. She will also receive a house in Hildale, Utah, and a 40-acre piece of property just over the border in Colorado City, Ariz., with a total value of $1.25 million.

“She’s done enough for this community, I think she’s entitled to a residence,” Shields said.

The trust holds nearly all the land, homes and businesses in the home base of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints along the Utah-Arizona border.

Estimated to be worth about $110 million, it was built to fulfill a belief in holding property communally. The Utah attorney general seized the trust in 2005 amid allegations of mismanagement.

Wall wants to be involved in the community where she grew up and as the trust is re-made outside the control of sect leaders loyal to Jeffs, her lawyer Alan Mortensen said.

“The Board of Trustees and Ms. Wall want a community that is focused on families, friendships and growth – rather than divisive feelings, tall fences and secrecy,” the two sides said in a joint news release.

The federal government is pursuing the group on multiple fronts, including court cases alleging food stamp fraud and child labor in Utah.

Prosecutors are also calling for the police department to be disbanded after a jury in Phoenix found that the twin polygamous towns denied basic rights to nonbelievers.

Jeffs does not have lawyer, and the sect does not have a spokesman or a phone listing where leaders can be contacted.

The 2007 verdict against Jeffs was overturned on a technicality, but he is now serving a life prison sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting girls he considered wives.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify people who say they were sexually assaulted, but Wall has spoken publicly and written a book about her experiences.

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