ST. GEORGE — Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs has been sentenced to two consecutive terms of five years to life in prison for performing a child-bride marriage.
The sentence was handed down this afternoon here in 5th District Court by Judge James Shumate.
Jeffs is expected to next go to the Utah State Prison, where state corrections officials said he will undergo a five-week orientation course that determines where he will be placed at Point of the Mountain. Prison officials have told the Deseret Morning News they believe Jeffs will ultimately end up in the maximum security unit for his own protection.
The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole will ultimately determine how long Jeffs spends in prison. He will automatically be given a parole hearing in 2010, but that does not mean he will be immediately released.
Jeffs, 51, was convicted in September of two counts of first-degree felony rape as an accomplice, stemming from a marriage he performed between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin at a Nevada motel room back in 2001.
The victim, Elissa Wall, objected to the union but was told by Jeffs to go back and give herself “mind, body and soul” to her husband. Wall eventually left the marriage when she became pregnant with another man’s child. She has also filed a multimillion dollar civil lawsuit against Jeffs and the FLDS Church.
Wall’s former husband, Allen Steed, testified for Jeffs during his trial and the day after the FLDS leader was convicted, was himself charged with rape. Steed’s lawyer’s are seeking to have the case dismissed.
Jeffs’ defense lawyers have also said they will appeal his case.
Shumate denied a request by Jeffs’ defense attorneys to set aside the jury’s guilty verdicts, arguing that “a reasonable juror could not have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt from the state’s purely circumstantial evidence that Jeffs encouraged another to rape Elissa Wall.”
In response, Washington County prosecutors said the evidence to convict was “ample on each and every element of the crimes charged.”
The FLDS leader is next scheduled to face criminal charges in Arizona, where he is accused of performing more child-bride marriages.
“I don’t know how long it will take to get him to Arizona, but I believe the Defendant and his attorneys want him to appear in Arizona as soon as possible after he is sentenced,” Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said in an e-mail to the Deseret Morning News. “After that, it will just depend on how long it gets to take to get discovery completed and all the interviews done before we can set a trial date.”
Jeffs has also been indicted by a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City on a single count of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, stemming from his time on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.
Nov. 20, 2007
Ben Winslow and Nancy Perkins