HOUSTON — Texas corrections officials said Monday that imprisoned polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs will be without phone privileges for 90 days as punishment for making calls that were put on speakerphone — presumably so he could preach to his followers.
Jeffs, 56, was found to have broken the rules multiple times with calls used for conferencing, said Michelle Lyons, Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman. Prison officials had said last week that his phone use was suspended indefinitely while they investigated.
"I don't know how far back it went," Lyons said. "The investigation stemmed from reports on Christmas Day he used the phone system to deliver sermons. He made at least two calls that day."
Authorities didn't say how they found out about the improper calls, but have said previously that except for calls between inmates and their lawyers, calls made through the inmate telephone system are monitored and recorded.
Jeffs is serving a life sentence plus 20 years for sexually assaulting two of his underage brides. The charges followed a 2008 raid on a West Texas ranch where followers of his Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints live. Former church members have said since his conviction last year that Jeffs would continue to try to lead his Utah-based church from prison, since followers revere him.
He's held in protective custody, isolated from other inmates at the Powledge Unit prison near Palestine, about 140 miles north of Houston. Inmates are allowed up to 10 people on their phone list, and prison officials say those people are told the calls must be to a land line, not a mobile phone, and also must be to an individual caller and not be made available to a wider audience.
Jeffs was found to have committed a major disciplinary violation by breaking a posted inmate rule. Lyons said if Jeffs, who has no lawyer, violated phone rules again after phone privileges were restored in three months, the violation again would go through the disciplinary process. She wasn't sure if a penalty then would be more harsh.