Polygamist Church Leader Warren Jeffs was convicted on Thursday of sexually assaulting two of his teenage wives.
Jeffs faces a sentence of life imprisonment.
The leader of a radical sect of Mormonism known as Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS) says polygamy is his religious right. The 55-year-old man has 79 wives and nearly 60 children.
He was put on the FBI’s most wanted list in June 2005, and was arrested in August 2006. He was convicted in September 2007 and sentenced to prison on November 20, 2007. The Utah Supreme Court reversed those convictions in July 2010. In August 2011, Jeffs was convicted of child sexual assault.
During the trial, the prosecutors used DNA evidence to show that Jeff fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl and played an audio recording of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl and telling her to feel “the spirit of God.”
"You might have asked yourselves," Lead prosecutor Eric Nichols said, "a lot of people may ask, why would someone record sex? ... This individual considers himself to be the prophet. Everything he did, hour after hour, he was required to keep a record of that."
In response, Jeffs read parts of the Book of Mormon into evidence. He said his freedom of religion protects his right to practice polygamy, which has been condemned by the Mormon Church, when it became illegal in 1890.
The FLDS, which has at least 10,000 followers nationwide believes polygamy is the key to heaven and Jeffs is God’s spokesperson. The biggest FLDS populations are Eldorado, Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona.They prefer to live in isolated communities led by a prophet.
Warren Jeffs orchestrates these communities, arranges polygamous marriages and even exiles men who pose a threat to his leadership.
Eleven other FLDS followers are charged with the crime of sexual assault and bigamy.