The leader of a religious following in Michigan will be arraigned this month in 4th District Court on two second-degree felonies for allegedly performing a 1993 marriage in American Fork between his 13-year-old daughter and a 48-year-old friend.
State investigators allege that John Perry Chaney, 39, conspired to marry his daughter to Don Beaver on Sept. 28, 1993, so Beaver could fondle and have sex with the girl. Chaney, who asks to be called John Perry, will be arraigned Feb. 28 on a charge of conspiracy to commit rape of a child and a charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated sexual abuse of a child."I am who I say I am," Chaney told Judge Fred Howard during a preliminary hearing Monday.
The Utah attorney general's office charged Beaver with three felonies last year in 3rd Circuit Court and has issued a warrant for his arrest. Investigators believe Beaver may still be hiding in Utah.
Chaney was arrested last month in Michigan and was brought to Utah following a lengthy and highly publicized extradition hearing. In Michigan, Chaney is married to a 15-year-old girl who is now pregnant. The legality of that marriage is the subject of a civil proceeding in a Michigan juvenile court.
Chaney allegedly has a group of followers that practice marriage to young girls. According to court documents, Chaney believes girls are ready for marriage in God's eyes at the age of 12.
At Monday's preliminary hearing, Chaney told the judge that Utah courts have no jurisdiction over him because he is not a resident or citizen of a government of democracy. He does not recognize the law of the land, only common law and the law of the Bible. He said marriage is a right given by God and state prosecutors are converting that right into a crime.
"I am here under duress and protest," he said.
Chaney said he was being "railroaded" and called the hearing a "lying session" where his "disinherited daughter" would present a bunch of "fabricated facts." When Howard refused to hold an evidentiary hearing on the jurisdictional claim, Chaney accused the judge of violating the law.
"You are guilty at this moment of judicial misconduct," he told Howard. "You are on notice."
Chaney's daughter, now 15, testified that her father came to her on Sept. 21, 1993, and told her she was to marry Beaver seven days later. The girl said Beaver had a dream where he needed to join the family by marrying the young girl. Her father prayed about the issue and informed her that the marriage was ordered by God as punishment for the girl's rebellious behavior. The girl testified that her father said everything she and Beaver did in bed was holy.
"He told me I was to do what my husband wanted," the daughter testified.
Prosecutors played a tape recording of the marriage where Chaney's voice was clearly heard performing the ceremony. Following the ceremony, Chaney performed a religious blessing and sealing on the couple. The daughter testified that about one week after the marriage she and Beaver had intercourse.
On cross-examination from Chaney's court-appointed attorney, Randy Spencer, the girl said she later learned that Beaver had agreed prior to the wedding not to have sex with her until she reached 16. The girl also admitted manipulating state officials at times with half-truths to get her way.
In closing arguments, Spencer told Howard that prosecutors failed to prove Chaney's intent was for Beaver to have sex with his daughter. He pointed to a jail-house interview where Chaney said it was not his original intent that his daughter and Beaver "share seed," but that's how it worked out.However, Utah assistant attorney general Craig Barlow said a jury could draw a reasonable inference about Chaney's intent. He pointed to a statement Chaney made during the Michigan extradition hearing, where he said that he only provided a means where his daughter could have sex in the proper context of a lasting relationship.
Howard ruled that state prosecutors proved probable cause and bound Chaney over for arraignment.
When Chaney first returned to Utah he refused to leave the Utah County Jail to attend his first court appearance. He also refuses to wear jail clothing, so jailers brought him to court Monday wrapped in a jail blanket. He is currently being held on $200,000, cash-only bail. If convicted, Chaney could be sentenced to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison.