Alaskan family accuses a man, who called himself "Papa Pilgrim", of sexually and physicall abusing his children. He forbid his children to marry, refused to allow them to learn how to read, made them obedient to his interpretation of the Bible.
The family is now urging a judge to send the man, 66-year-old Robert Hale, to prison for a long time. Sentencing was set for Tuesday.
Hale was convicted of sexually assaulting an adult daughter. His plea agreement calls for a sentence of about 14 years.
Hale and his family first came to prominence in Alaska during a feud with the National Park Service. Family members used a bulldozer without permission to clear an abandoned mining road to get to their land.
National land rights advocates rallied to their cause and stories featured their plight as a case of big government vs. simple God-fearing, music-loving, live-off-the-land folks.
But that rustic image was a facade, Hale's wife testified Monday during a sentencing hearing.
Fighting back tears, Kurina Rose Hale compared the family to a city beautiful to outsiders but plagued on the inside by bad water and barren ground. Robert Hale ruled his family by fear and abuse, she said.
"I've never been able to say these things in his presence without objection and the possibility of a threat, and it scared me," she said.
Hale forbid his children to marry and would not allow his sons to cut their hair or beards. He refused to allow his children to learn how to read, she said.
Patriarch of a family of 17, Hale insisted that he had a perfect spiritual understanding, his wife testified.
"This is how he justified all his immoral activity," she said.
Hale was accused of persuading one child that she was a "special kind of daughter" and that she must have sex with him.
Kurina Rose Hale said she was wracked with guilt for not taking steps to stop the abuse.
"I can see how wrong I was for not finding help," she said.
Joseph Hale, the oldest son, testified that his father made his five oldest sons sleep together wearing only underwear into their teens.
There was sexual abuse among the brothers, he and others said. When his father found out, he beat the five oldest boys, requiring them to stretch out over a "beating barrel" and administering lashes with a three-cord riding crop.
"He beat us unmercifully for that for months," Joseph Hale said.
He testified that he initially could not believe that his father had been sexually assaulting his sister because the boys had been beaten so severely for their transgressions.
"He constantly lied to me and his older boys when we confronted him," he said.
The sexual abuse culminated with an incident in the tiny community of McCarthy, where Hale locked his daughter in a shed for three days, sexually assaulted, and beat her so badly her face looked like a black and blue basketball, according to another daughter's testimony.
Soon after, she and another daughter left on a snowmobile and contacted authorities.
Hale listened to the testimony from a wheelchair. He had brought a folder of papers and a Bible into the courtroom.
Hale's oldest son said family members fear Hale's control if he's allowed out of prison. He asked the judge to give his father a substantial sentence.
"The longer the better," he said.
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