Polygamist leader gets life sentence for assault
SAN ANGELO, Texas - Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison yesterday for sexually assaulting an underage follower he took as a bride in what his church deemed a “spiritual marriage.’’
The head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also received a 20-year sentence for the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.
He stood quietly yesterday as the decision of the Texas jury was read, giving him the maximum sentence on both counts. They are to be served consecutively.
Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the 55-year-old will be eligible for parole in 35 years.
Prosecutors had asked the jury for the life sentence after presenting their painstaking and sometimes graphic case, and rejected Jeffs’s contention that he was being persecuted for his religious beliefs.
“The evidence in this case shows that this isn’t a prosecution of a people,’’ prosecutor Eric Nichols said in his closing argument. “This is a prosecution to protect people.’’
During the trial, prosecutors used DNA evidence to show Jeffs fathered a child with the 15-year-old and played an audio recording of what they said was him sexually assaulting the 12-year-old.
Jeffs, who had insisted on acting as his own attorney during the earlier part of the trial, was convicted Thursday.
He asked to be excused under protest during the sentencing phase, which ended yesterday with his refusing to answer when the judge asked if he wanted to make a closing statement. A defense attorney told the judge that Jeffs had instructed his attorneys not to speak for him.