What was to be a final pretrial turned in to what may be the first of several pretrials for Frederick Merril Jessop, 75, a bishop of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who now has a new attorney.
Twelve FLDS men have been indicted and seven prosecuted for charges of bigamy and sexual assault of a child. Trials have lasted about two weeks per case.
Jessop will be the first FLDS member in this series of trials not to be tried for bigamy and sexual assault of a child. Conducting a ceremony prohibited by law is a third-degree felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Jessop was the bishop at the group’s Yearning for Zion Ranch when Texas authorities raided it in 2008. They took more than 400 children into protective custody — though they were later returned to their parents — and seized thousands of boxes of evidence. It was used to indict 12 men, including Jeffs and Jessop. Seven of those men have been found guilty or entered pleas; five are awaiting trial.
Jessop is also the ex-husband of Carolyn Jessop, who in 2007 wrote a best-selling book, Escape, chronicling her life within the sect and departure from it. She was his fourth wife. A Texas court ordered Jessop to pay her nearly $150,000 in child support in August, the Standard-Times reported.
Jessop was excommunicated from the FLDS earlier this year, according to former members. He was one of more than 30 men cast out by Jeffs from his Texas jail cell, where he is awaiting trial on sexual assault and bigamy charges connected with two alleged spiritual underage marriages.
Jessop’s next pretrial hearing was scheduled for June 27 in Schleicher County, and a trial date was set for Oct. 31.
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