New court documents state that Samuel Rappylee Bateman, the leader of a polygamous group, had taken at least 20 wives, most of who were minors. 

Bateman was a former member of a branch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) until he broke away and started his own splinter group. He appointed himself as a prophet and punished followers who did not treat him as such. 

According to a statement by the FBI, Bateman’s male followers supported him financially and gave up their own wives and children to him. 

The same FBI affidavit affirms that Bateman defended himself by claiming it was “impressions of Heavenly Father’s will” that told him to engage in these sexual acts. 

In August, Bateman was arrested while hauling a trailer in Flagstaff, Arizona with three girls aged between 11 and 14. He was arrested again in September for attempting to destroy records and blocking the investigation into whether the children were being transported for sexual activity. 

Bateman is currently in federal custody in Arizona and has pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice and child sexual abuse. 

These allegations come after nine girls were taken away from Bateman’s group by child welfare officials and put in group homes. In November, eight of the girls escaped state custody.

Last week, Washington state police found Moretta Rose Johnson, one of Bateman’s wives, in Spokane, Washington with the eight girls. 

None of them talked about Bateman’s abuse to the FBI, but the organization found references to sexual interactions in their journals. 

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