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Arizona polygamist leader contacting teen girls from jail, prosecutors say

Prosecutors claim Samuel Bateman has been finding ways to contact his alleged victims and intimidate a witness from within jail as he awaits trial in Arizona.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Prosecutors are trying to stop Samuel Bateman, the alleged leader of a polygamist group who's facing federal charges in Arizona, from attempting to make contact with victims or witnesses from inside jail. 

In a court document filed last week, federal prosecutors accuse Bateman of finding ways to circumvent restrictions put in place to prevent the suspect from contacting any of the teenage girls he's accused of victimizing.

Bateman is suspected of having over 20 wives, many of whom are under the age of 16. He's been charged with kidnapping and tampering with evidence, which was the result of a federal investigation into his community near the Utah-Arizona border. 

Since his arrest last September, prosecutors claim Bateman's had sexually-explicit conversations with multiple juvenile girls while he was in custody at an Arizona jail. One of those girls is a victim in a state child abuse case involving Bateman, records show.

"Despite Bateman’s knowledge that his non-legal communications are monitored, he brazenly engaged in explicit sexual conversations with children," prosecutors wrote in a recent court filing.

The defendant is additionally suspected of asking his adult wives to send intimidating messages to a witness expected to testify for prosecutors.

Prosecutors claim Bateman used the jail's video call system to tell a wife to send the government's witness a message. 

"...tell (the witness) that I gave you the message to send this to her and tell her that she picked the wrong religion to hate. K?" Bateman is accused of telling one of his wives.

Prosecutors further accuse Bateman of violating the jail's rules by conducting three-way calls, stealing another inmate's PIN number to try to make a call, or having his wives change their contact info and avoid detection.

The government is asking the courts to deny a request made by Bateman to have his communication privileges reinstated. 

Bateman is a former member of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He started his own separate group several years ago after their leader, Warren Jeffs, was sent to prison for sex crimes.

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