The former bishop of a polygamy-sanctioning sect received the maximum sentence of 10 years and a $10,000 fine late Tuesday afternoon for conducting a marriage ceremony between a 12-year-old girl and the then-50-year-old sect leader, Warren Jeffs.
Coke County jurors took just under an hour to deliberate on the sentence of Fredrick Merril Jessop, 75 and the former bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, having found him guilty of the third-degree felony on Monday.
“What do we do with a man who has put out in harm’s way so many people, who worked as some twisted Pez dispenser popping off daughters for the prophet?” lead Prosecutor Angela Goodwin said in her closing arguments.
The jury heard testimony and saw documents that alleged Jessop had 22 wives, married off 11 daughters and two granddaughters to Jeffs, a man now in prison for sexual assault, and participated in 16 underage marriages.
Another witness in the punishment phase included Carolyn Jessop, testifying against her ex-husband.
“I was his fourth wife,” Carolyn Jessop said.
She married Jessop when she was 18 years old and he was 50.
Carolyn Jessop said the morning after their first night together, Jessop joked: “A dog is better than a new wife, because a dog is loyal.”
Fredrick Merril Jessop would discipline — or “break,” as Carolyn Jessop quoted him as saying — his 11-month-old baby by spanking it until it cried and then hold its head face up under a flowing faucet.
She left the sect in 2003 with her eight children, including one with severe mental and physical disabilities, because she was afraid her daughter would be forced into marriage because she was almost 14 years old.
Jessop had told his fourth wife she was spiritually to blame for her son’s disabilities, she said. [...]
Carolyn Jessop has written a best-selling book about leaving the FLDS.
Jeffs, the former leader of a radical polygamist sect of Mormonism known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS), is serving a life sentence for sexual assault, after being convicted of forcing two teenage girls into “spiritual marriage” — one being the 12-year-old Jessop married him to — and fathering a child with the other when she was 15.
Much of the evidence shown to jurors was the same that prosecutors used to convict Jeffs in August of sexually assaulting the 12-year-old girl and another 15-year-old child bride. Jeffs is serving a life sentence.
Jeffs excommunicated Jessop sometime after the wedding ceremony.
Jessop’s attorney, Rae Leifeste, told jurors that because there was no marriage license for the “sealing,” it was different from a wedding ceremony that can be prosecuted. But lead prosecutor Angela Goodwin told the jury that “Texas law is as clear as a bell” about what a marriage ceremony is.