Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides in what his church deemed “spiritual marriages.”
The 55-year-old head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints stood quietly as the decision of the Texas jury was read. He received the maximum sentence on both counts.
The jury deliberated less than half an hour.
The 55-year-old Jeffs was convicted Thursday.Â
NPR points out that
Jeffs was previously convicted in Utah in 2007 of facilitating rape, after he married a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old first cousin.
The Utah Supreme Court overturned that conviction last year.
Jurors deliberated for 40 minutes before ordering Jeffs to serve life in prison on one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child and 20 years in prison on one count of sexual assault of a child. They also determined Jeffs must pay a $10,000 fine.
In a closing statement given Tuesday morning, prosecutor Eric Nichols told the jury the 55-year-old Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader was a man who “perverted a religion to his own ends” and treated women and children not as human beings but as “property for sexual gratification and child bearing.”
“Evidence is this case shows this is not the prosecution of a people, this is a prosecution to protect a people,” Nichols said.
Reacting to the sentence, former FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop said “everyone in the church has to take responsibility.”