Warren Jeffs sentenced to life in prison after 30-minute deliberation

By Paul J. Weber

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 9 2011 7:00 p.m. MDT

Among the trove of evidence against Jeffs taken from the ranch were photos of him kissing the young brides he took in "spiritual marriages" and scratchy audiotapes of him giving girls explicit instructions for sex. His journals speak of casting out men for not being humble, written around the same time Jeffs was photographed in a leather jacket atop a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

"Everyone in the church has got to take a responsibility for what has taken place," Jessop said. "In order for this to be fixed going forward, we have to take responsibility. This is a crisis for every single member in the church."

Jeffs rose to power in 2002 following his father's death, and has run the church despite being in police custody in either Arizona or Texas since 2006.

He'll be more restricted in whatever Texas prison he ends up in. Jeffs was flown to a prison intake across the state hours after being sentenced. It's there that prison officials will decide where he will serve his sentence and whether to assign him to the general prison population, safekeeping or protective custody. His telephone calls will be limited to a list of 10 people, and Jeffs will be prohibited from receiving any visitors under age 17.

Jeffs stood quietly Tuesday as the sentence was read. He must serve at least 45 years in prison: at least 35 years of a life sentence on one of the child sex charges, and at least 10 years on the other.

During the trial, 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.

"If the world knew what I was doing, they would hang me from the highest tree," Jeffs wrote in 2005, according to one of his journals.

Nichols referred to that passage in his closing Tuesday.

"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.

Jeffs spent years crisscrossing the country as a fugitive who eventually made the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list before his capture in 2006. Former church members testified that Jeffs ruled with a heavy and abusive hand, and excommunicated 60 church members he saw as a threat to his leadership, breaking up 300 families while stripping them of property and "reassigning" wives and children.

Among Jeffs' most eccentric orders was banning the color red. Rebecca Musser, a former FLDS member who was once a wife of Jeffs' father, showed up to the sentencing in a deep red dress.

Prosecutors suggested that the polygamist leader told the girls they needed to have sex with him — in what Jeffs called "heavenly" or "celestial" sessions — in order to atone for sins in his community. Several times in his journals, Jeffs wrote of God telling him to take more and more young girls as brides "who can be worked with and easily taught."

When police raided the group's ranch, they found women dressed in frontier-style dresses and hairdos from the 19th century as well as underage girls who were clearly pregnant. The call that spurred the raid turned out to be a hoax, and hundreds of children were returned to their families.

Documents in evidence said Jeffs had been a part of at least 550 bigamous marriages, and that 67 of those had been to underage girls. Documents stated Jeffs had himself taken 78 illegal wives, 24 of them underage, with some having come from Canada and some as young as 12 years old. In one instance of underage marriage, he married two 12-year-old girls to himself in one day, the documents record.

Jeffs is the eighth FLDS man convicted since the raid. Previous sentences ranged from six to 75 years in prison.

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