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Kane County resident Ross Lebaron convicted of five charges of familial rape

Ross Lebaron to be held in Kane County Jail until sentencing. Photo courtesy of the Kane County Sheriff’s Office.

In a six day trial ending on Friday, May 24, Ross Lebaron was convicted of the rape of his eldest daughter. Per the court documents, “Evidence was submitted that indicated Ross Lebaron committed rape multiple times beyond the instances represented by the charges,” of which charges there were five counts of felony rape in Kane County. Lebaron has been proven to have multiple children with his daughter. Witness accounts present him encouraging other children to marry and have children with each other and some testimony indicates his religious belief as a motivator for this family dynamic. Lebaron’s defense agreed that accusations of incest, polygamy and the encouraging of his family to engage in these practices were undeniable.

Lebaron was accused of rape which included multiple instances of sexual intercourse without consent via coercion and undue influence over his victim. The investigation revealed what Lebaron’s defense attorney described as “fanatical religious beliefs” and “nonsense,” and the prosecution described repeatedly as “coercive control” over Lebaron’s family unit on a ranch on the southern areas of Kane County. Witness testimony during the trial described Lebaron as controlling, imposing and difficult to argue with, with one witness in his defense stating, “You don’t say no to Ross Lebaron.” An Arizona Child Protective Services investigation into Lebaron’s family in 2011 described the children as “resembl[ing] that of a devotee under the influence of a cult leader … [the victim] is completely under the control of her father.” The CPS report also stated, “Ross Lebaron is the patriarch of the family, and he maintains rigid control of [the victim] … [he] believes his power comes directly from Jesus Christ.”

Kane County Attorney Rob Van Dyke, acting as the prosecution, described Lebaron “belittling, degrading and shaming” the victim for wanting to participate in church activities outside the family. Van Dyke cited previous witness testimony, stating, “By his fanatical religious beliefs … he believes that he is the reincarnated Jacob of the Bible.”

The primary theme of the prosecution’s argument for rape was that of “coercive control,” the undue influence Lebaron exerted over his family through isolation, threat and emotional manipulation. The prosecution presented a list of conditions that led to this control, stating that the victim and the other children of the household had “no choice, no control, no consent.” The prosecution alleged that Lebaron compelled the victim specifically to engage in sexual acts with him and that under the circumstances she had no means to express consent at all - and in one cited instance, specifically expressed refusal of consent, after which Lebaron proceeded with sexual intercourse.

As examples of the sort of manipulation in which Lebaron engaged, the prosecution cited instances of Lebaron concealing the state of his family from law enforcement and family services officials, including one incident where Lebaron concealed his pregnant daughter within a small tank on the property. Witnesses testified of scenarios in which the victim had taken her daughter to Phoenix to seek medical attention, and secured housing for the rest of her children to live nearby - an arrangement which Lebaron refused and insisted if the victim wanted to see her other children she would have to return home to her father. In one instance in which the victim wanted to leave the family circumstance, Lebaron was quoted as saying, “If you leave, I will find another mother for your children.”

The defense argued that while Lebaron’s actions did constitute polygamy and incest, all sexual action was taken with the victim’s express consent. Stated the defense, “Set aside your bias … set aside your judgements on incest and polygamy … this trial is about rape and consent, and there is no proof of that. [The victim] never told her father no.” The defense argued that the victim had the freedom to drive, financial independence with a bank account and internet privileges, stating “there is no proof of this coercive control.” Per their argument, in the instance in which the victim refused sexual contact, it was momentary discomfort because their children were in the same room.

After about three hours of deliberation, the jury returned with guilty verdicts on all five counts of felony rape, each of which has an associated sentence of five years to life. Lebaron will undergo a preliminary sentencing investigation in which the Utah Division of Adult Probation and Parole will prepare a report regarding sentencing recommendations. Lebaron’s sentencing date is July 1, which is to be conducted digitally via Webex; the meeting is still on public record and can be attended digitally via Judge Bagley’s long-term Webex link.




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