Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for sexually assaulting an underage follower he married in a "spiritual marriage."
Jeffs, the head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also received a 20-year sentence for sexual assault on a 15-year-old girl. Jeffs received the maximum sentence on both counts.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said that Jeffs will become eligible for parole in 35 years. He will be 90 years old.
Jeffs, 55, maintained that he was being persecuted for his religious belief but prosecutors described him as a sexual predator.
"The evidence in this case shows that this isn't a prosecution of a people," prosecutor Eric Nichols said in a closing argument. "This is a prosecution to protect people," he added.
Prosecutors used DNA evidence to prove that Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl and presented an audio recording of him sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.
Jury deliberations took 30 minutes.
Prosecutors also played tapes of Jeffs teaching as many as 12 of his young wives how to fulfill his sexual needs.
"If the world knew what I was doing, they would hang me from the highest tree," Jeffs said in a 2005 note found in his Texas home.