Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs is facing a possible life sentence after being convicted of child sexual assault.
The case stemmed from two young followers he took as brides in what his church calls “spiritual marriages”.
The head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints stood stone-faced as the verdict was read out in the San Angelo, Texas, court.
Jeffs, who acted as his own lawyer, stood mostly mute for his closing argument, staring at the floor, for all but a few seconds of the half hour he was allotted. At one point he mumbled “I am at peace” and said no more.
Jeffs, 55, had claimed his religious rights were being trampled on and that God would seek revenge if the trial continued. He now faces up to life in prison.
The sentencing phase of the trial began after the verdict was announced, and Texas’ attorney general said it could take three days.
Prosecutors used DNA evidence to show Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl and played an audio recording of what they said was him sexually assaulting a 12-year-old. They also played audio recordings in which Jeffs was heard instructing young women on how to please him sexually.
The cult, which has at least 10,000 members, is a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism and believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. They see Jeffs as God’s spokesman on earth.
Police raided the group’s remote West Texas ranch in April 2008, finding women dressed in frontier-style dresses and hairdos from the 19th century as well as seeing underage girls who were clearly pregnant.
The call to an abuse hotline that sparked the raid turned out to be a hoax and more than 400 children who had been placed in protective custody were eventually returned to their families.
But authorities brought charges against several men from the group, with Jeffs by far the highest-profile defendant.
As the sentencing began, prosecutors told jurors they would present evidence that Jeffs had 78 wives, in addition to his legal spouse, and that 24 of them were under 17.
Lead prosecutor Eric Nichols also said he would show that Jeffs either witnessed or performed hundreds of polygamist marriages, including 67 marriages involving underage girls.
Jeffs stood up and made several incoherent objections to what was being said.
“I object to anything pertaining to a religious manner,” he said at one point. “A constitutional guarantee involving things sacred must be invoked.”
Prosecutors have relied heavily on information seized from the compound, which is in the town of Eldorado, 45 miles south of San Angelo, and features a four-storey temple of white limestone. Much of the material was discovered in a vault at the end of a secret passageway in the temple and another vault in an annexe building.
“You might have asked yourselves,” Mr Nichols told jurors during closing arguments, “a lot of people may ask, why would someone record sex? ... This individual considers himself to be the prophet. Everything he did, hour after hour, he was required to keep a record of that.”
On one of the tapes played at the trial, Jeffs made a reference to “drawing close” or “being close”, which authorities said was how church members referred to sex. Two female voices said: “OK.”
“A good wife is trained for her husband and follows the spirit of peace,” Jeffs was heard saying.
Another audio tape included Jeffs and the younger girl from a recording made in August 2006 at the Texas compound, according to evidence from Nick Hanna, a Texas Ranger involved in the 2008 raid.
Played in court, it was difficult to decipher, but Jeffs and a female voice are heard. He says: “I perform this service in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen” then mentions the alleged victim by name. When she says something, he responds: “Don’t talk while praying.” Several minutes of heavy breathing followed.
Jeffs represented himself after sacking seven lawyers in the six months leading to the trial. He broke his courtroom silence with an objection marked by a nearly hour-long speech defending polygamy and twice threatened the judge and the court with warnings of punishment from God.
He refused to cross-examine the state’s witnesses and delayed giving an opening statement until he began presenting his own defence.
Eleven other FLDS men were charged with crimes including sexual assault and bigamy. All seven of those who have been prosecuted were convicted, receiving prison sentences of between six and 75 years.
Good! I hope he rots in jail for the rest of his life. Sicko.
Jeff is a psycho justifying the crime he did in God's name. How the hell he used His name for such worldly lust.
Okay, this is what I don't get... let's "pretend" that he had been called to marry all these women, through some type of vision, dream, prophecy... whatever you want to call it. Couldn't he at least wait until these women were of legal age? If he IS the prophet, they would surely respect the alliance and be faithful to him until they were old enough to get married. These men are pigs. They are sick! These poor women don't know any better. They've been brainwashed to believe all of this nonsense.
Can anyone tell me what the difference is between this...
There isn't one.
Btw, if anyone can find a fundamentalist branch of any religion that doesn't treat its women like dirt, please let me know. I may join just for the novelty.
Jesus was not apart of any religion. The religious people are the ones that killed him.
In the Bible it tells the husbands to treat the woman like he treated the church. How did Jesus treat the church? well He died for the church, He loved the church, he put the churches feeling before his. He loved the church. Jesus cleaned there feet Jesus pampered the church. He gave up everything for the church. and that is how the bible tells us how to treat a woman.
don't let the religious people (like the Mormons) tell you what to do. They know nothing about the true word of God......
Don't Join a Religion that is not what God wants. He wants people that will learn about him. Churches that are Bible based. Truly bible based!!! Definitely not Mormons
In the Bible it talks about those that rape. They should be killed and sent to the Father (God) for judgment.
I can think of more positive benefits in marijuanna than I can with any religion.
Marijuanna - Now thats a religion I can worship Hail yee O Lord of Divine Smoke
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