Morgan polygamist frontman Sam Bateman pleads not guilty to kidnapping
A fundamentalist Mormon leader accused of having more than 20 wives, many of them underage, pleaded not guilty this week to charges of kidnapping and tampering with federal evidence.
Samuel Rappylee Bateman, 46, was first jailed in August when authorities found three underage girls locked in a trailer he was towing near Flagstaff, Arizona. He then made headlines when a federal raid from his homes in Colorado City revealed evidence of incest, group sex acts involving adults and children, and child sex trafficking.
He remained in custody this week, when he pleaded in court in Phoenix, CBS reported.
The case against Bateman is part of an ongoing crackdown on abuse allegations in Colorado City and nearby Hildale, Utah. Both cities are longtime strongholds of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), a polygamous offshoot of mainstream Mormonism.
Bateman was once a trusted follower of self-proclaimed prophet FLDS Warren Jeffswho was sentenced to life in prison more than 10 years ago on charges of child sexual abuse stemming from early marriages.
However, the affidavit filed shortly after the September raid detailed how Bateman parted ways with Jeffs and “began proclaiming he was the prophet” in 2019. He went on to gain around 50 followers and 20 wives. , most of whom are under the age of 15, according to the affidavit.
At least two of his wives would be his own teenage daughters.
Although the current charges against Bateman are limited to tampering with evidence and aiding in the abduction of young girls, court documents indicate the federal government has evidence that could lead to new charges.
In audio recordings that were submitted to the FBI, Bateman appeared to facilitate the rape of minors by offering his daughters to adult men.
In a November 2021 interaction, Bateman can be heard saying that the “Heavenly Father” commanded him to “give the most precious thing he has, the virtue of his daughters.”
One of the girls was only 12 at the time.
Earlier this month, three of Bateman’s adult wives were charged with kidnapping and obstructing prosecution after eight children at the Colorado City resort escaped from custody and were later found hiding in an Airbnb in Washington State.
Authorities say adult women were acting on Bateman’s example, after the imprisoned Prophet told his followers to obtain passports and delete posts after his arrest.
Bateman’s trial is scheduled to begin on January 10, although that date could be pushed back if his lawyers have more time to prepare.