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Friday, August 5, 2011
MEDIAEVAL TEXAS?: Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs convicted of child sex abuse!
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By Will Weissert, Associated Press / Published: Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011 3:39 p.m. MDT.
Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press
A law enforcement officer, left, escorts polygamist religious leader Warren Jeffs, right, into the Tom Green County Courthouse Thursday Aug. 4, 2011, in San Angelo, Texas. The defense rested Thursday in the sexual assault trial against Jeffs in which he served as his own defense.
SAN ANGELO, Texas — A Texas jury convicted polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs of child sexual assault on Thursday, in a case stemming from two young followers he took as brides in what his church calls "spiritual marriages."
The head of the Fundamentalist LDS Church stood stone-faced as the verdict was read. Jeffs, who acted as his own attorney, 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. The only noise in the courtroom was the creaking of wooden benches brimming with spectators.
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 FLDS, 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 had 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 spurred 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.