Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Warren Jeffs gets life in prison for sex with underage girls .
San Angelo, Texas • A jury on Tuesday sentenced polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs to life in prison for having sex with underage girls.
Jurors deliberated for 40 minutes before ordering Jeffs to serve life in prison on one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child and 20 years in prison on one count of sexual assault of a child. They also determined Jeffs must pay a $10,000 fine.
In a closing statement given Tuesday morning, prosecutor Eric Nichols told the jury the 55-year-old Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader was a man who "perverted a religion to his own ends" and treated women and children not as human beings but as "property for sexual gratification and child bearing."
"Evidence is this case shows this is not the prosecution of a people, this is a prosecution to protect a people," Nichols said.
Prosecutors rested their case against Jeffs in the sentencing phase of his trial on Monday. Jurors last week convicted Jeffs in connection with two plural marriages to girls ages 12 and 15.
During the sentencing phase, prosecutors presented evidence of other so-called bad acts committed by Jeffs. Jurors were told Jeffs took a total of 78 plural wives, including 12 girls he wed at age 16 and another 12 he married at age 15 or younger, according to evidence and testimony presented in court Monday.
Jurors heard several audio recordings of what prosecutors said was Jeffs giving sexual instruction to underage wives and even having intercourse in a baptismal font inside a temple at the sect’s Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado.
Jeffs represented himself during the guilt or innocence phase of his trial and chose not to attend his sentencing hearings. After prosecutors rested their sentencing case against Jeffs on Monday, new Jeffs defense lawyer, Jed Silverman, of Houston, declined to call any witnesses.