October 31, 2007 / 8:25 PM / 12 years ago

Polygamy leader says was "immoral" with sister

Warren Jeffs looks down during closing defense arguments in Jeffs' trial in St. George, Utah, September 21, 2007. Jeffs, convicted of being an accomplice to rape, renounced his role as prophet while awaiting trial because he had been "immoral" with a sister and a daughter 30 years ago, according to a court document. REUTERS/Trent Nelson/Pool

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs, convicted of being an accomplice to rape, renounced his role as prophet while awaiting trial because he had been “immoral” with a sister and a daughter 30 years ago, according to a court document.

The newly released document showed that Jeffs, 51, made the statements in several conversations from his Utah jail with family and members of the breakaway Mormon sect earlier this year.

Jeffs, revered by followers as the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or FLDS, will be sentenced on November 20. He was convicted in August in Utah on two counts of being an accomplice to rape by forcing a 14-year-old sect member to marry her first cousin.

The trial riveted Utah, the Western state with a majority Mormon population, many who consider polygamy to be a thorn in the side of their faith. The FLDS, whose estimated 7,500 members live in an enclave along the Utah-Arizona border, is not part of the mainstream Mormon church, which has long renounced polygamy.

While in jail awaiting trial, Jeffs made a series of phone calls recorded by authorities in which he said he “had been immoral with a sister and a daughter” when he was 20 years old, a court document released on Tuesday showed. Jeffs did not elaborate on the nature of the conduct.

“He renounced his role as prophet, explaining that the Lord revealed to him that he was a wicked man and has not held the priesthood since he was 20 years old,” the document said.

He later retracted his renouncement in another recorded telephone conversation after being treated for depression, according to the document. The audio and video recordings were not presented at Jeffs’ trial on the grounds they would prejudice the jury.

Jeffs’ word was considered God’s will to his followers. Women were taught to be submissive and “keep sweet,” while dissent led to exile and religious damnation, witnesses testified at the August trial.

Jeffs, who pleaded not guilty, had been on the run for 15 months and was on the FBI’s most wanted list before being arrested in August 2006. After being sentenced in November to a possible 10 years in prison, he is expected to stand trial on similar charges in Arizona.

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