Texas sect leader charged with promoting bigamy released

BAIRD, Texas — A religious sect leader charged with promoting bigamy was released from jail Wednesday after a judge reduced his bond from $10 million to $100,000.

House of Yahweh founder Yisrayl Bill Hawkins is not charged with having more than one wife but with promoting multiple spouses for some men in his West Texas group. If convicted of the second-degree felony, Hawkins faces from two to 20 years in prison.

Among other things, Yisrayl Bill Hawkins is known for predicting nuclear war to start on Sept. 12, 2006.

His attorney John S. Young had requested a bond reduction, saying $10 million was excessive for the charges.

At the hearing Wednesday, Callahan County District Attorney Shane Deel asked the judge to deny the request, saying Hawkins was a flight risk.

Several House of Yahweh members testified that Hawkins would pose no threat to them or the community if he were released. Hawkins, who wore an orange jail jumpsuit but not handcuffs or leg shackles, testified that he would attend all future court appearances.

“I’m just not going to leave, period,” said Hawkins, 73.

State District Judge John Wilson Weeks reduced his bond to $25,000 for each of the four counts and said Hawkins had to surrender his passport, stay within a three-county region and check in with a probation officer monthly.

Hawkins, a former Abilene police officer, founded the Old Testament-based sect in 1980 after changing his name from Bill to Yisrayl. Several hundred members of the group now live on a compound in Callahan County east of Abilene.

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AP, via the Houston Chronicle, USA
Feb. 20, 2008

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This post was last updated: Feb. 21, 2008