Land trust is dropped from lawsuit over alleged sex abuse in polygamous sect meetinghouse

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) The Leroy S. Johnson Meetinghouse in Colorado City, Ariz., shown in 2013.

A woman who alleges Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints President Warren Jeffs sexually abused her inside the polygamous sect’s old meetinghouse has agreed to drop her lawsuit against a land trust on the Utah-Arizona line.

The plaintiff, identified in court records only as “R.H.,” and the land trust, called the United Effort Plan, filed a joint motion July 8 seeking the dismissal. R.H. also agreed to drop her case against Wendell Loy Nielsen, a former FLDS bishop.

Alan Mortensen, an attorney for the plaintiff, wrote in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune that the sides agreed to the dismissal without any payment of money or land to R.H.

Zachary Shields, an attorney for the United Effort Plan, or UEP, said all sides agreed to pay their own attorney fees.

Mortensen said his client intends to continue pursing damages from Jeffs, two of his brothers — Lyle and Seth — and his church.

Jeffs, who is serving a sentence in Texas of life in prison plus 20 years for crimes related to sexually abusing two girls he married as plural wives, his brothers and the FLDS have not defended themselves from the lawsuit. A default judgement was entered against them in 2018. It’s unclear whether they have any assets to collect.

(Trent Nelson | AP file photo via pool) Warren Jeffs sits in the Third District Court in Salt Lake City on Nov. 15, 2010.

The dismissals will be a relief to UEP beneficiaries who faced having to be the ones to pay for any abuses committed by Jeffs. The land trust owned most of the homes and commercial properties in Hildale, Utah, and adjoining Colorado City, Ariz., and was under Jeffs’ influence when he was alleged to have assaulted R.H.

The trust has settled previous lawsuits against Jeffs — filed by people he evicted from the sect or abused — by paying millions of dollars in cash or real estate.

Utah seized control of the UEP in 2005 out of concerns Jeffs was misusing it to further his crimes and that people were at risk of losing their homes. The land trust has since been reformed and its board has been giving away the homes or selling them at low costs to families with ties to the UEP and the FLDS.

R.H. alleges in the lawsuit that a bag was placed over her head and she was taken to various locations, including the Leroy S. Johnson Meetinghouse in Colorado City, so Jeffs and other men could sexually assault her beginning at age 8. She asserts she later was forced to watch Jeffs assault other girls.

When she sued in state court in December 2017, she said in filings she was then 21.

Nielsen was convicted in Texas in 2012 of three counts of bigamy and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was paroled in 2013. In court papers, he denied any role in sexually abusing R.H.