Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was in a Texas courtroom today, where he was sentenced to life in prison today for sexually assaulting two underage followers of his breakaway sect of the Mormon Church.
See former New Times staffer John Dougherty's articles on the the secretive, isolated polygamist Mormon communities that straddle the Arizona-Utah border here.
The FLDS' original headquarters was based in Colorado City -- along the Arizona/Utah border -- but Jeffs moved the Church's headquarters to Texas after he faced criminal charges in Arizona. He was convicted of accessory to rape in Utah in 2007, but the conviction was overturned by the state Supreme Court. In December he was extradited to Texas to face charges there.
Prosecutors were able to prove through DNA evidence that Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old member of the church. They also played audio recordings at trial of Jeffs sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.
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During the trial, prosecutors played other tapes in which Jeffs was heard instructing as many as a dozen of his young wives on how to please him sexually -- and thus, he told them, please God.
"If the world knew what I was doing, they would hang me from the highest tree," Jeffs wrote in 2005, according to one of thousands of pages of notes seized along with the audio recordings from his Texas ranch.
Nichols referred to that in his closing.
"No, Mr. Jeffs, unlike what you wrote in your priesthood records ... we don't hang convicts anymore from the highest tree. Not even child molesters," Nichols said.
The two girls whom Jeffs has been convicted of sexually abusing are apparently the tip of the iceberg.
In 2004, Jeffs' nephew, Brent Jeffs, filed a lawsuit against his uncle claiming he sodomized him in the late 1980s. Two of Jeffs' other nephews also made claims that Jeffs sexually abused them, one of whom, Clayne Jeffs, committed suicide.
Jeffs is the eighth member of the FLDS church convicted since authorities raided the Yearning For Zion compound near San Angelo, Texas, in 2008 after Child Protective Services received several calls from juveniles claiming they'd been abused.