New charges in polygamist case

November 13, 2008 8:43:13 AM PST
Three more members of a West Texas polygamist sect were indicted Wednesday and its leader, Warren Jeffs, was charged with an additional sexual assault charge in the massive case that sprung from an April raid on the sect's compound. A Schleicher County grand jury indicted two people on bigamy charges and a third on charges of conducting an unlawful marriage ceremony involving a minor, the state Attorney General's Office said in a statement. The office is handling the prosecution for the tiny West Texas county. The names of the new defendents were not immediately released.

The grand jury also issued an additional charge of aggravated sexual assault against jailed sect leader Jeffs, who has already been charged in Texas with bigamy and aggravated sexuak assault of a child. Previously convicted as an accomplice to rape in Utah, he awaits trial in Arizona for alleged involvement in underage marriages there.

Texas child welfare authorities and law enforcement raided a ranch run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in April, looking for evidence that underage girls were forced into marriages and sex with much older men. More than 400 children were seized in the raid and placed in temporary foster care.

Grand jury proceedings are secret by law, but records that law enforcment confiscated from church offices indicated a number of girls, some as young as 12, were given away in marriage to Jeffs and other men in the sect.

Under Texas law, no one under 17 generally can consent to sex with an adult. Bigamy is also illegal, and while the FLDS polygamist marriages were not generally legally recognized unions, state law forbids even the act of purporting to marry more than one person.

A call to the church's attorney, Rod Parker, was not immediately returned.

Before Wednesday's indictments, eight people were already facing charges. All but one were indicted on charges of sexual assault of a child, with several facing additional bigamy charges. A ninth defendent, the sect's doctor, was charged only with misdemeanor counts of failure to report child abuse.

The charges are separate from the unwieldly child custody case. Those civil cases are winding down with all but a few families free of court oversight.

The FLDS is a breakaway sect of the Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago. The FLDS believes polygamy brings glorification in heaven.

          State News Channel | 100 most recent Texas stories
        Slideshow archive | ABC13 wireless | Headlines at a glance


Load Comments