[326 U.S. 455, 456] Mr. Claude T. Barnes, of Salt Lake City, Utah, for petitioners.
Mr. Harold Judson, Asst. Sol. Gen., of Washington, D.C., for respondent.
Mr. Justice MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Federal Kidnapping Act1 punishes any one who knowingly transports or aids in transporting in interstate or foreign commerce 'any person who shall have been un- [326 U.S. 455, 457] lawfully seized, confined, inveigled, decoyed, kidnapped, abducted, or carried away by any means whatsoever and held for ransom or reward or otherwise, except, in the case of a minor, by a parent thereof.' The sole issue confronting us in these cases is whether the stipulated facts support the convictions of the three petitioners under this Act, the indictment having charged that they unlawfully inveigled, decoyed and carried away a minor child of the age of 15, held her for a stated period, and transported her from Utah to Arizona with knowledge that she had been so inveigled and held. We are not called upon to determine or characterize the morality of their actions. Nor are we concerned here with their liability under any other statute, federal or state.
Petitioners are members of the Fundamentalist cult of the Mormon faith, a cult that sanctions plural or 'celestial' marriages. In August, 1940, petitioner Chatwin, who was then a 68-year old widower, employed one Dorothy Wyler as a house keeper in his home in Santaquin, Utah. This girl was nearly 15 years old at this time although the stipulation indicates that she had only a mental age of 7.2 Her employment by Chatwin was approved by her parents. While residing at Chatwin's home, the girl was continually taught by Chatwin and one Lulu Cook, who also resided there, that plural marriage was essential to her salvation. Chatwin also told her that it was her grandmother's desire that he should take her in celestial marriage and that such a marriage was in conformity with the true principles of the original Mormon Church. As a result of these teachings, the girl was converted to the principle of celestial marriage and entered into a cult marriage with Chatwin [326 U.S. 455, 458] on December 19, 1940. Thereafter she became pregnant, which fact was discovered by her parents on July 24, 1941. The parents then informed the juvenile authorities of the State of Utah of the situation and they took the girl into custody as a delinquent on August 4, 1941, making her a ward of the juvenile court.
On August 10, 1941, the girl accompanied a juvenile probation officer to a motion picture show at Provo, Utah. The officer left the girl at the show and returned later to all for her. The girl asked to be allowed to stay on for a short time and the officer consented. Thereafter, and prior to the second return of the officer, the girl 'left the picture show and went out onto the street in Provo.' There she met two married daughters of Chatwin who gave her sufficient money to go from Provo to Salt Lake City. Shortly after arriving there she was taken to the home of petitioners Zitting and Christensen. They, together with Chatwin, convinced her that she should abide, as they put it, 'by the law of God rather than the law of man' and that she was perfectly justified in running away from the juvenile court in order to live with Chatwin. They further convinced her that she should go with them to Mexico to be married legally to Chatwin and then remain in hiding until she had reached her majority under Utah law. Thereafter, on October 6, 1941, the three petitioners transported the girl in Zitting's automobile from Salt Lake City of Juarez, Mexico, where she went through a civil marriage ceremony with Chatwin on October 14. She was then brought back to Utah and thence to Short Creek, Arizona. There she lived in hiding with Chatwin under assumed names until discovered by federal authorities over two years later, December 9, 1943. While in Short Creek she gave birth to two children by Chatwin. The transportation of the girl from Provo to Salt Lake City, thence to Juarez, Mexico, and finally to Short Creek was without the consent and against the wishes of her [326 U.S. 455, 459] parents and without authority from the juvenile court officials.