Warren Jeffs instructs new self-proclaimed prophet Samuel Bateman to invoke the “Spirit of God on these people.”

Published by The Bee News

December 12, 2022

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The alleged leader of a small polygamous group near the Arizona-Utah border, Samuel Bateman, is said to have taken at least twenty wives, the majority of whom were minors, and is believed to have punished those who did not recognize him as a prophet, based on documents just filed in federal court. The documents also reveal that he was previously a part of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, and then broke away to establish his own sect. Further, it appears that male followers financially supported him and contributed wives and children to be part of Bateman’s harem. An FBI affidavit supports this account.

On Friday, a new document emerged offering further knowledge into the probe that was first exposed in August; the charges of kidnapping and impeding an impending prosecution were laid upon the three wives of Bateman – Naomi Bistline, Donnae Barlow, and Moretta Rose Johnson – who will be appearing in federal magistrate court in Flagstaff on Wednesday, while Johnson is being transferred from Washington state.

Last week, authorities found eight of Bateman’s children, who had been placed in Arizona state custody earlier this year, hundreds of miles away in Spokane, Washington – leading to the accusation of the women for fleeing with them. Subsequently, Bateman was arrested in August when someone spotted tiny fingers peeking out from the gap of a trailer he was towing through Flagstaff. After posting bail, he was arrested a second time for allegedly hindering a federal investigation into whether minors were being trafficked across state lines for sexual exploitation.

Allegations of child sex trafficking and polygamy have been made against 46-year-old Bateman, however none of his current charges involve these claims. Although polygamy is a criminal offense in Arizona, it was decriminalized in Utah in 2020. Tuesday, spokesmen Darren DaRonco of the Arizona Department of Child Services and Kevin Smith of the FBI refused to comment on the situation, while Bistline’s attorney did not reply to a request for comment and Barlow’s attorney chose to stay quiet. No attorney was listed for Johnson.

According to an FBI affidavit filed in the case of the women, it is largely focused on Bateman, who declared himself a prophet back in 2019. Bateman professes that Warren Jeffs, who is currently serving a life sentence for child sex abuse in Texas, instructed him to invoke the “Spirit of God” onto the people. The affidavit goes into explicit detail about the sexual acts that Bateman and his devotees partook in under the guise of “Godly duties”.

Michael Piccarreta, the criminal defense attorney who formerly represented Jeffs on charges in Arizona, attested that Texas was trying to take a stand against polygamy by charging minor offenses in order to construct a more comprehensive case against Jeffs, who is currently serving a life sentence for child sex abuse related to underage marriages.

Bateman, a Colorado City resident living among a variety of religious groups from the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to ex-church members and non-practitioners, pondered, “Whether this is the same tactic that has been used in the past or if there is something more to the story, only time will tell.” Unfortunately, the office of Bateman’s attorney in the federal case, Adam Zickerman, had no comment when approached on Tuesday. Polygamy remains an outdated practice that is forbidden by the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who ceased the practice of polygamy in 1890.

Bateman would often travel to Nebraska, Canada and Mexico, seeking out his devotees and attending international conferences. After his arrest earlier this year, authorities revealed he had instructed his followers to acquire passports and erase messages sent through an encrypted system. Additionally, he requested public confessions from those who had made a mistake, and then imposed various punishments, ranging from a time-out to public humiliation and sexual activities, supposedly coming from the Lord.

The three minors whose initials appeared in the court files have not uttered much to the officials. In the trailer that Bateman was pulling through Flagstaff – equipped with an improvised toilet, a couch, some camping chairs, but no ventilation – they informed authorities that they did not require any health or medical attention, according to a police report. Despite none of the girls placed in state custody in Arizona disclosing sexual abuse by Bateman during forensic interviews, one claimed to have been present during sexual activity, according to the FBI affidavit. But the journals of the girls seized by the FBI unveiled a different story; several entries alluded to intimate interactions with Bateman. Regrettably, authorities suspect the older girls had a hand in influencing the younger ones not to mention Bateman, said the FBI.


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