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Warren Jeffs, On Trial For Sexual Assault, Gets Warning From Judge For Threats
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Warren Jeffs, On Trial for Sexual Assault, Gets Warning From Judge for Threats

Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has drawn a warning from the judge that is presiding over his case. He has already caused controversy by asking for the right to fire his attorneys. Judge Barbra Walther allowed him to do so, but refused to change the timeline of the trial that had originally been expected to last no more than three weeks. However, with Jeffs now representing himself, the trial has the potential to be much longer.

During opening statements, Jeffs stared straight down and refused to speak at all. The following day though, his demeanor had changed dramatically, interrupting the prosecution’s witnesses repeatedly, including six objections in a row. His most vocal protests came when the FBI agent was on the stand, citing that the US government was violating his First Amendment rights of Freedom of Religion. Prosecutors tried for over an hour to explain that the First Amendment did not apply here because it did not cover polygamy. The Amendment also does not provide any kind of protection for those who are violating the rights of children.

Jeffs, who is currently on trial for two counts of sexual assault of a child, is no stranger to legal problems having already been convicted of similar crimes in Utah. The sentences for his previous crimes were overturned in 2010 because the judge gave the wrong instructions to the jury. In 2008, his religious compound was raided and more than 400 women and children were removed by a number of Texas state agencies. The children were originally removed from the women, but the Texas State Supreme Court could find no reason to make the removal permanent and most of the children were given back to their mothers.

There are roughly 10,000 followers of the sect, which is more arcane than the more mainstream church. Polygamy, for instance, has not been followed by the Mormon church for over 100 years. Followers were wearing similar styled clothing when the compound was raided. Girls, some as young as twelve were seen caring for children, which authorities have said belonged to them. Older men are frequently allowed to marry the young women who have no ability to say no.

Warren Jeffs will also face charges of polygamy later, but he must first finish the trial that is turning into one that has more than just a crime to be contended with. During a recessed moment, while the jury was out of the room, Jeffs launched himself into a sermon, calling himself a direct messenger of God and saying that the proceedings were an abomination against him and his message. He then added that there would be “judgment against all those who prosecute the church.” His diatribe ended with generic threats of sickness and death.

Judge Barbra Walther warned Jeffs that if he used these threats in the presence of the jury, he would be removed from the courtroom.


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