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Warren Jeffs

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Warren Jeffs was the leader and self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and the owner of the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas until sentenced to prison in 2007 for abuse of underage girls. The FLDS Church broke off from the main body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, now over 14 million members strong, when polygamy ended in 1890. The FLDS believed that God still sanctioned polygamy and broke off to keep practicing it. The FLDS Church has about 10,000 members in the United States.

Members of the FLDS Church call themselves "Mormons," but they have no affiliation with the Mormon Church. The real Mormon Church has denounced the polygamous sects and excommunicates members who attempt to practice polygamy. Polygamous sects have ended up in the thrall of powerful leaders who vie for leadership and power and exercise iron-fisted control over their followers. This coercion is opposite to the way God leads true religion, guaranteeing free agency and the verification of faith through personal revelation to all. The power won by leaders in these sects has opened the door to abuse of power and authority.

Members of the FLDS church and the Yearning for Zion Ranch filed motions in March 2009 seeking to seal the abuse investigation of a 17-year-old girl. They are also requesting that any evidence seized during the raid and investigation be returned. Jeffs' attorneys are claiming that the allegation of abuse made by Rozita Swinton were false. The abuse claims made by Swinton led to the search and seizure of Zion Ranch, but the raid was inconclusive, not finding evidence of abuse.

Contents

Fast Facts

Warren Jeffs
# Born: December 3, 1955
  1. May 2006: Added to FBI's Ten Most Wanted List
  2. Arrested: August 28, 2006
  3. April 4, 2008: The Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas was searched after a complaint was made to state child welfare investigators
  4. All children were removed from the ranch, but all but one were later returned
  5. About 12 men at the ranch are facing charges including bigamy and violations against underage girls due to the evidence found during the raid
  6. Official Title: President and Prophet, Seer and Revelator
  7. Sentenced five years to life in prison, will serve at least 10 years

Fugitive

In May of 2006, Jeffs was added to the FBI's Most Wanted List. Jeffs fled to avoid prosecution in a case in Utah where he was accused of arranging the marriages between his adult male followers and young girls.

Charges

Jeffs was arrested in August of 2006 in Nevada. He agreed to go back to Utah and face his charges. Arizona also charged him with eight additional counts in two separate cases in May and July of 2007. The charges included various gross violations against laws of the land regarding sexual conduct.

Trial

The Warren Jeffs trial in St. George, Utah, began in September of 2007. The trial lasted less than a month. On September 25, Jeffs was convicted of two counts of accomplice to rape -- years to life.

Indictment

On July 22, 2008, Jeffs and five other men were indicted on charges related to a gross violation of the Law of Chastity. Jeffs was indicted by a Texas grand jury on a charge of violation of a child. The indictment proceedings follow the child custody case of more than 400 children taken away from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Texas. Jeffs is currently jailed in Utah State Prison.

Updates

Jeffs appeared before a federal court in San Angelo, Texas, in July 2011. Jeffs was appearing in his own defense and made a motion to dismiss a "bishop's list," as evidence. The list was gathered as evidence in the raid, and therefore might not be admissable. The list purportedly contains the names of male members of the sect and their wives. The sect is accused of promoting marriages between older men and girls, and has been condemned by the mainstream Mormon Church. It appears that the sect considers it mandatory for a man to have at least three wives to earn exaltation in heaven. Jeffs lost his composure during one session, and the outburst and subsequent interruptions of other attorneys in the case led State District Judge Barbara Walther to dismiss the jurors and adjourn the court session. He accused the U.S. legal system of persecuting a peaceful, God-fearing people.

On July 28, 2011, a Texas jury found Jeffs guilty of sexually assaulting two girls he had taken as "spiritual wives." DNA samples proved that one of the girls, aged 15, had a child by Jeffs, and there was audio tape presented as evidence of Jeff's advances toward a 12-year-old girl. Jeffs faces a sentence of up to life in prison (119 years if found guilty on all counts). "Texas prosecutors said at the sentencing phase they would present evidence that Jeffs had 78 wives in addition to his legal spouse. They said 24 of those were under 17." [1] "Eleven other FLDS men were charged with crimes including sexual assault and bigamy. All seven of those who have been prosecuted were convicted, receiving prison sentences of between six and 75 years."

Jeffs received the full life sentence [2] and will not be eligible for parole until he is 100 years old. Because of the charges against him, the evidence, and the sentence, some people are expected to leave the compound and the faith that he leads. However, Jeffs may be able to lead his church from prison, especially since his followers are not allowed to read newspapers, watch TV, or use the internet, and therefore, may be completely unaware of his proven crimes or sentencing. [3]

The prosecution produced evidence that Jeffs used the compound's temple for sex with young girls under the guise of religion, and claimed that the judiciary had to save a religion and a people from Jeff's corrupt leadership. Prosecutors also showed evidence that Jeffs has 78 plural wives, including 12 girls married at age 16 and another 12 who were 15 or younger.

In August 2011, the Christian Post reported that some of Jeff's followers have decided to erect a three-story tall statue of Jeffs in the Yearning for Zion compound. The article was very careful to explain that the FLDS have nothing to do with the mainstream Mormon Church. [4]

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