Entries in Polygamist (4)


Bishop Who Married Warren Jeffs, Young Girl Sentenced to 10 Years

Hemera/Thinkstock(ROBERT LEE, Texas) -- A former polygamist bishop was sentenced on Tuesday to the maximum 10 years in prison for marrying polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs to a 12-year-old girl.

A Coke County, Texas, jury convicted Fredrick Merrill Jessop, 75, of the third degree felony offense of conducting an illegal wedding ceremony in 2006 between the then 50-year-old Jeffs and the underage girl.

The San Angelo Standard Times reported that jurors deliberated for only an hour after closing arguments ended before announcing their verdict.

In addition to the prison sentence, Jessop was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Witnesses testified that Jessop also allegedly had 22 wives, married 11 daughters and two granddaughters to Jeffs, and participated in 16 underage marriages, according to the Times.

Jeffs, the former leader of a radical polygamist sect of Mormonism known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS), is serving a life sentence for sexual assault, after being convicted of forcing two teenage girls into “spiritual marriage” -- one being the 12-year-old Jessop married him to -- and fathering a child with the other when she was 15.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Warren Jeffs Has History of Self-Inflicting Harm in Jail

TRENT NELSON/AFP/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- Warren Jeffs' condition at a Texas prison hospital has improved from critical to serious, but that might not stop the polygamist sect leader from inflicting further illness and injury on himself in the future, according to one Jeffs expert.

"I don't think Warren wants to be alive," said Sam Brower, author of the Jeffs biography Prophet's Prey.  "He's going to continue to be a problem for Texas authorities."

Jeffs, 55, was hospitalized Sunday for illness at least partly related to his refusal to eat and drink, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said Monday.  Jeffs told guards he had stopped eating since his conviction of sexual assault of minors earlier this month, she said.

Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was sentenced to life in prison for the assaults on two girls, ages 12 and 15, whom he claimed were his spiritual wives.

Lyons disputed earlier reports that Jeffs was in a coma, but confirmed that he had been sedated.  Jeffs was transferred from a public hospital, where he was taken when he was in critical condition, to a prison medical center Tuesday.

The sect leader has caused harm to himself while incarcerated before, including fasting, banging his head against a wall, trying to hang himself with his pajamas, and kneeling for such long periods of time that he developed hernias on his knees.

While serving time in the Washington County jail, he tried to hang himself and threw himself against cell walls headfirst.  He was also hospitalized for dehydration and depression, according to court documents.

In 2009, he was temporarily force-fed while in an Arizona jail.  Officials put a feeding tube into his nose and would strap him to his bed so that he could not kneel any longer, according to Brower.  Blood from where the feeding tube was removed was visible in photos from when Jeffs was moved from Arizona to Utah, Brower said.

"He's setting himself up to be a martyr.  He doesn't want his followers to know he's trying to kill himself, so if he calls it fasting, his followers can say he was on a fast and God took him," Brower said.

Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said that Jeffs would remain at the prison hospital until he could return to Texas state prison in Palestine.  He is scheduled to go on trial again in October for charges of bigamy, which could carry a 99 year sentence.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Warren Jeffs Trial: Sex Tape Details Emerge

TRENT NELSON/AFP/Getty Images(SAN ANTONIO) -- Fundamentalist Mormon religious leader Warren Jeffs was found guilty Thursday on two charges of aggravated sexual assault.

Texas state prosecutors wrapped up their case against Jeffs by using his own words against him: A disturbing August 2006 recording of what Jeffs' called a "heavenly comfort" training session with three of his so-called "spiritual wives."

One of the females was exactly 12 years, one month, and three days old when the recording was made. Jeffs was charged with aggravated sexual assault, considered a first-degree felony.

Sexual contact with his wives, Jeffs believes, revives him spiritually and brings the girls closer to God.

The recording was made at the Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas, owned by the FLDS. It begins with Jeffs asking the girl how she feels.

"Feels good," she responds, according to a copy of the transcript reviewed by ABC News.

"Everyone else let go of me, back away a little" Jeffs says soon after. "Please get on the other side of the bed. You shall learn the powers of the spirit of God as a heavenly wife should," Jeffs tells the 12-year-old. "Let the heavenly comfort hear us."  

"We bless you, by the Lord, at this young age. To come to know God and his power, and feel his presence," says Jeffs, according to the transcript.

Throughout the 20-minute tape, there are periods where sounds described by the transcript as "rhythmic heavy breathing" can be heard.

At one point, Jeffs again asks the girl how she feels.

"I feel fine, thank you," she says.

Jeffs later tells a woman in the room to "face her” -- an apparent reference to the 12-year old. He is also heard saying, "...want to distract her."

As the session ends, Jeffs begins to pray.

Texas Ranger Nick Hanna testified the recording was found when Jeffs was arrested during a traffic stop in Nevada a few weeks later. Another copy was found at the Yearning for Zion ranch when it was raided in 2008.

Jeffs, the leader of a radical sect of Mormonism know as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS), is on trial for two counts of sexual assault of a child. He is accused of forcing two teenage girls into "spiritual marriage," and fathering a child with one of them when she was 15. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Warren Jeffs' Former Follower Says Evidence Will 'Shock The World'

ABC News(SAN ANGELO, Texas) -- A Texas judge will hear opening motions Wednesday in the trial of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs, and a woman who has faced Jeffs in the courtroom in the past says the trial will open the world's eyes to the insular, polygamist world of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), Jeffs' offshoot of mainstream Mormonism.

"It will shock the world, the evidence that comes out," Elissa Wall said Wednesday on ABC's Good Morning America.

Wall was one of the first of Jeffs' followers to pursue criminal charges against him.  She was 14 years old when she says Jeffs, 55, forced her to marry her first cousin, Allen Steed.

"Warrens Jeffs was the principal of my school.  I was able to get out, but it was a struggle," Wall said Wednesday on GMA of her experience with the accused leader -- a story chronicled in her book, Stolen Innocence.

After leaving the FLDS, she pursued criminal charges against Steed for sexual assault and against Jeffs for being an accomplice to rape.  Jeffs was convicted on those charges in 2007 but the conviction was overturned by an appellate court on a technicality.

In the current trial, Jeffs faces charges he sexually assaulted two underage girls, ages 17 and 12, whom he later married.  The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.  He faces a separate trial on a bigamy charge in October.

"This is an opportunity for people to see firsthand the actual crimes that Warren Jeffs committed," Wall said on GMA.

The selection of the 10 men and two women who will decide Jeffs' fate came late Tuesday night after a difficult jury selection process that showed the extent to which Jeffs has gained worldwide notoriety for reportedly having 70 wives and leading the sect's 10,000 members, who live along the border of Utah and Arizona.

A total of 207 people appeared for the second day of jury selection in the San Angelo, Texas courtroom where the trial is being held, but State District Judge Barbara Walther excused 120 of those potential jurors after most said they could not presume Jeffs' innocence.

While the jury is set, opening statements in the trial will not move forward without at least one more hearing, on a motion by the defense to suppress evidence.  Jeffs' attorneys say they also plan to request a change of venue out of San Angelo, but have yet to file a motion to do so.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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