Fundamentalist Mormon Leader Expecting Followers To Support Him
The jurors at the trial of a polygamist religious leader with as much as 70 wives and 31 daughters, are set to hear opening arguments on allegations of sexual assault against two under-age girls.
Warren Steed Jeffs, 55, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the defendant in a San Angelo, Texas trial this week. He is accused of having sex with a then 14 year old and a 12 year old.
Jeffs, as "Prophet, Seer, and Revelator" teaches that a man must have three wives to get to "highest glory of heaven," and the more wives, the better to reach it. Jeffs took over the cult after his father's death. He then married all but two of his father's 19 wives. His father, the previous cult leader, was said to have 60 children.
The number of wives and children attributed to polygamous marriages is in question due to the extreme secrecy of the sect. Members are said to lie to outsiders to protect their leaders and community as, making it difficult to know precisely what really goes on inside the locked gates of the remote community.
Jeffs was on the FBI's Most Wanted list until captured in 2006. Seven other male members of the sect have been found guilty of sexual offenses, including two who plead guilty.
Wednesday afternoon's hearings are taking up motions by the defense to limit documents to be allowed in evidence at the trial. Evidence collected includes DNA from hundreds of adults and children to establish family lines. The prosecution will have to prove the age of the alleged victims, and their sexual abuse by Jeffs in order to convict him.
The secretive nature of some prospective witnesses from the polygamous community, and their alleged propensities to lie to protect Jeffs may prove a stumbling block for the prosecution.
The jury is comprised of 10 women and two men, overseen by Judge Barbara Walther.