Mar 7, 2023

Polygamist cult leader and self-proclaimed prophet 'brazenly' used jailhouse phone system to have 'sexual discussions' with kids: Feds

Sam Bateman
Law & Crime
March 6th, 2023

Polygamous cult leader Sam Bateman, a self-proclaimed prophet awaiting trial on kidnapping and other charges, “brazenly” used the jailhouse phone system to “engage in sexual discussions with children,” federal prosecutors allege.

One of the girls, identified in court papers as “Jane Doe 4,” is a 13-year-old he allegedly conspired to kidnap, court papers say.

“All those sacred times”

During the Nov. 26 conversation, Bateman placed a video call with “some” of his adult wives, and “Jane Doe 4” had been on the other line in the custody of Arizona’s Department of Child Safety. Prosecutors say that Bateman then spoke to the teen, referring to her as his “sexy darling” and making profane sexual remarks about her breasts and his desire to sexually abuse her.

“Don’t you remember all those sacred times we spent together?” Bateman is quoted telling the girl.

The conversation violated a Superior Court’s order barring Bateman from all contact with “Jane Doe 4,” a listed victim in a child abuse case in Arizona’s Coconino County, prosecutors say.

Bateman allegedly made the same obscene and vulgar sexual remarks to 16-year-old victim “Jane Doe 10.”

In 2019, Bateman declared himself a prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a sect whose adherents practice polygamy. The government estimates that Bateman has roughly 50 followers and more than 20 wives, nine of whom are minors between the ages of 12 and 16.

“Bateman allegedly has ‘impressions of Heavenly Father’s will’ to encourage his followers, including the minor children, to engage in sexual acts and relies on that submission to do his own will,” prosecutors wrote on March 3. “Bateman is a subject in a federal investigation into the transportation of minors in interstate commerce to engage in criminal sexual activity, and travel in interstate commerce to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors, beginning around May 2020.”

Bateman has been kept in detention since he was charged in mid-September with attempting to obstruct justice. A subsequent indictment accused him and three of his adult wives — Naomi Bistline, Donnae Barlow, and Moretta Rose Johnson — with additional obstruction-related counts and a federal kidnapping charge. Prosecutors signaled that another charging document could be imminent against him and others.

Originally slated to stand trial last November, Bateman’s reckoning has been adjourned multiple times and was recently pushed back another year, until March 5, 2024.

Bateman’s attorney Marc J. Victor claims that an order prohibiting his client from contacting anyone other than his lawyers from behind bars, using the phone system operated by contractor CoreCivic, violates the Constitution.

“The restriction on Mr. Bateman’s access to all people outside CoreCivic except counsel is excessive, suggests an express intent to punish Mr. Bateman and thus denies him Due Process of Law and his First Amendment rights,” Victor wrote.

“She picked the wrong religion to hate”

Prosecutors responded to that claim with a litany of Bateman’s alleged transgressions, justifying the measure.

“During the 77 days Bateman spent in federal pre-trial detention before his communications were restricted, he participated in the kidnapping or escape of eight children; had explicit sexual conversations with children; violated a Coconino County Superior Court no-contact order; directed others to intimidate a government witness; sought to influence potential testimony; and repeatedly misused detention facility communications systems in violation of policy,” the government says.

Before being charged federally, Bateman was arrested by Arizona Department of Public Safety for child endangerment on Aug. 28, 2022, after being discovered with three young girls between the ages of 11 and 14 during a traffic stop.

In bodycam footage of that stop, Bateman could be heard telling deputies: “I’ll tell you right now, I’m not going to tell you anything.”

During his temporary detention that day, prosecutors say, Bateman instructed his followers to “delete my Signal account now, the whole thing, delete every message, right now.”

Detailing some of the allegations behind the federal kidnapping charge, prosecutors claim that Bateman engineered that plot from behind bars.

“After Bateman’s federal arrest, nine minor girls, all believed to be wives of Bateman, were taken into Arizona Department of Child Services (DCS) custody on September 14, 2022,” prosecutors wrote. “Bateman — using communications systems at the Core Civic/Central Arizona Florence Correctional Complex (CAFCC) — then conspired with others to remove the girls from DCS custody. And on November 27, at least three of Bateman’s adult wives succeeded in removing eight of the nine children from their DCS placements. Law enforcement found the girls in Spokane, Washington, on December 1, 2022.”

Bateman also allegedly used the jailhouse phone systems to engage in witness intimidation.

On the same day he made sexual remarks to minors from jail, Bateman asked one of his wives to send a verse of scripture to a government witness: Doctrine and Covenants Section 121.

“Wo unto all those that discomfort my people, and drive, and murder, and testify against them, saith the Lord of Hosts; a generation of vipers shall not escape the damnation of hell,” the verse reads.

Prosecutors say that Bateman asked the wife to pass on that message from a blocked phone number and say “that I gave you the message to send this to her and tell her that she picked the wrong religion to hate.”

“You should also tell her that I can guarantee that her and Little Froggy have cancer already forming in their bodies,” Bateman allegedly said.

Through his attorney’s response on Saturday, Bateman didn’t appear to dispute making any of the remarks. He simply downplayed them.

“Mr. Bateman’s comments were simply venting as the messages were not intimidating and Mr. Bateman has no control over cancer,” the defense response states.

Bateman also denied that he violated the Cochino County court order, which he claims barred him from contacting “named victims,” only “if” he is able to post bond. He has been ordered detained pending trial.

Read the government’s filing here.

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