Saturday, November 07, 2009

Polygamist Sect Leader Convicted of Sexual Assault

Excerpts of  Polygamist Sect Leader Convicted of Sexual Assault by JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr., New York Times

ELDORADO, Tex. — One of the leaders of a polygamist sect was convicted Thursday night of sexually assaulting an under-age girl whom the church elders had assigned to him as one of his nine wives.

A jury of seven men and five women deliberated 2 hours 20 minutes before returning a verdict of guilty in the first trial of a dozen members of the Yearning for Zion Ranch just outside this rural hamlet in West Texas.

Mr. Jessop will be sentenced after a second hearing before the jury on Monday. He faces penalties ranging from 2 years' probation to 20 years in prison.

Mr. Jessop is one of the most prominent members of a breakaway sect that has at least four other communities in Arizona and Utah. He is close to Warren S. Jeffs, the self-styled prophet and leader of the sect.

The trial of Mr. Jessop offered a rare glimpse of the inner workings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a group that split from the Mormon Church. Followers believe polygamy brings heavenly rewards and treat Mr. Jeffs as a modern-day prophet.

Since the woman said to be the victim, who is now 21, did not testify, Mr. Nichols used the documents, along with her photo album, to prove she lived with Mr. Jessop as one of his wives and was impregnated by him when she was 16.

One of the most damning pieces of evidence presented in court was a written record of Mr. Jeffs's instructions in August 2005 not to take the girl to a hospital even though she had been struggling in labor for three days at a clinic on the ranch.

"I knew the girl, being 16 years old, if she went to the hospital, they could put Raymond Jessop in jeopardy of prosecution as the government is looking for any reason to come against us there," Mr. Jeffs was quoted as saying.

Ms. Musser testified that Mr. Jeffs had controlled every aspect of the women's lives, including how they dressed and what they ate. He also controlled whom they married and when.

"Age was not a factor," she said. "It was when the prophet deemed she was worthy."

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