A former leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sentenced to probation on bigamy charges may yet take back his plea and go to trial.
Wendell Nielsen, 70, says a Texas judge departed from the bargain he had struck with prosecutors and imposed stricter probation conditions, including staying away from his entire family and not coming within 1,000 feet of a school.
In new court documents filed in Schleicher County, Nielsen is asking for those conditions to be changed, or he might withdraw his plea and go to trial.
Prosecutor Eric Nichols said Texas law gives a judge “broad discretion” to implement probation conditions he or she sees fit. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 28.
Unlike other men from the Warren Jeffs-led sect, Nielsen was not accused in any underage marriages — he was charged with three felony counts of bigamy for marrying middle-aged women ranging from 43 to 66 years old. He faced a maximum penalty of two to 10 years in prison on each count. [...]
Nielsen was one of 12 FLDS men charged in Texas following a massive raid on the group’s Yearning for Zion Ranch in 2008. Nielsen, who served as president while leader Warren Jeffs was imprisoned in Utah, was one of the highest-ranking members of the sect until Jeffs reportedly excommunicated him earlier this year.