, 2022-12-09 11:00:00,
The leader of a polygamous group who declared himself a prophet spent months in Lincoln taking several girls as wives and orchestrating illicit sex acts with minors, according to federal court documents.
Samuel R. Bateman was arrested in August on state child abuse charges and federal charges of tampering with evidence. He has pleaded not guilty ahead of a January trial and remains in custody in Arizona.
Newly filed federal court documents provide more insight into the case against Bateman, who allegedly took at least 20 wives, most of them minors, and punished followers who did not treat him as a prophet.
While the affidavit in Bateman’s case has been sealed, three of his supposed wives within the fundamentalist sect were arrested for kidnapping and impeding a prosecution related to Bateman’s case earlier this month.
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The complaint against Naomi Bistline, Donnae Barlow and Moretta Rose Johnson sheds light on Bateman and his circle as they moved between Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Nebraska allegedly trafficking and engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors over a period of months.
Bateman, 46, proclaimed himself a prophet in 2019, claiming as the “Heavenly Father” he had been ordered to begin taking his followers’ wives and daughters as his own wives, or giving women — some underage — to other men as wives.
A former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, itself a breakaway sect of the Mormon Church, Bateman was at one time a close associate of Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas for child sex abuse related to underage marriages.
While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints once allowed its adherents to practice polygamy, the mainstream Mormon Church abandoned the practice in 1890 and now prohibits it.
According to the FBI, Bateman used his position of leadership within his small sect that is concentrated in Colorado City, a town of roughly 2,500 people on the Arizona-Utah border, to reward or punish his followers by giving or taking away wives, at least one as young as 10 years old.
In the affidavit filed by the FBI, Bateman took the first of what would become more than 20 wives in…
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