By Douglas Stanglin, USA TODAY
Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs has been sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides in what his church deemed “spiritual marriages.”
The 55-year-old head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints stood quietly as the decision of the Texas jury was read today, the Associated Press reports.
Jeffs is the eighth FLDS man convicted since a raid of a ranch run by the church, which believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.
Jeffs was convicted last week. During the trial, prosecutors used DNA evidence to show Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old 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 thousands of pages of notes seized along with the audio recordings from his Texas ranch.
Jeffs, who had been a fugitive for years before his capture in 2006, has more than 10,000 followers who consider Jeffs to be God’s spokesman on Earth.
FBI agent John Broadway testified that fathers who gave their young daughters to Jeffs were rewarded with young brides of their own. Girls who proved reluctant to have sex with Jeffs were sent away, according to excerpts from Jeffs’ journals that prosecutors showed to the jury.
Jeffs claimed that his religious rights were being violated, a view that the prosecution quickly dismissed.
“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.”
The full USA Today article may be seen here.