October 31, 2007
ST. GEORGE -- Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs told family members, in conversations recorded at Purgatory Correctional Facility, that he had been "immoral" with a sister and daughter and that he had renounced his role as prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Pre-trial documents that had been sealed by 5th District Court Judge James L. Shumate were made public late Tuesday afternoon. In them, Jeffs told his family and followers that he has renounced his role as the prophet, explaining that the Lord revealed to him that he was a “wicked man” and that he has not held the priesthood since he was 20 years old.
http://www.thespectrum.com/apps/ pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071030/ NEWS01/71030011
November 1, 2007
Polygamist Leader Said He Was 'Immoral'
Polygamist Sect Leader Warren Jeffs Said He Was 'Immoral, Wicked,' Unsealed Documents Show
By Jennifer Dobner
The Associated Press
AP Photo/Jud Burkett, Pool
Warren Jeffs reacts to the verdicts against him in this Sept. 25, 2007 file photo, in a St. George, Utah, court. Newly unsealed documents show that Jeffs, the leader of a polygamous sect renounced his role as a prophet while sitting in jail awaiting trial, and said he had been "immoral" with a sister and daughter decades ago. Jeffs, 51, was convicted on two counts of rape as an accomplice. Defense attorney Richard Wright stands behind him.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Sitting in jail awaiting trial, the leader of a polygamous sect renounced his role as a prophet and said he had been "immoral" with a sister and daughter decades ago, newly unsealed documents show.
Warren Jeffs' attorneys included those statements in documents they filed in July as they sought to keep jail recordings out of his September trial in the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old to her 19-year-old cousin.
Fifth District Judge James Shumate agreed that the recordings could bias jurors against Jeffs and ordered the documents sealed. He unsealed them Tuesday.
Jeffs, 51, was convicted on two counts of rape as an accomplice. He is to be sentenced Nov. 20 and could get up to life in prison.
Jeffs also faces criminal charges in Arizona and in Utah's federal court.
In telephone calls Jan. 24, Jeffs told family that he "had been immoral with a sister and a daughter" when he was 20, according to the documents. He goes on to renounce his role as the church prophet and says the Lord had "revealed to him that he was a wicked man."
It is not clear who Jeffs is speaking about, and Jeffs does not elaborate on the conduct. Some listeners responded by telling Jeffs he is the prophet and was being tested, according to the documents.
The court filings also recount a videotaped Jan. 25 visit to the Washington County jail by a brother, Nephi Jeffs.
Warren Jeffs said he had been fasting for three days and had been awake through the night. He began to dictate a religious message to followers but fell silent in mid-sentence and didn't speak again for 13 minutes.
Again, he renounced his position as head of the church. His brother tried to encourage him and said he should see a doctor.
Jeffs was taken to a hospital three days later and was given medication for depression. Court documents say he lost 30 pounds, was dehydrated and suffering from sleep deprivation.
In February, when his health had improved, he abandoned his statements about not being a prophet and said he had "experienced a great spiritual test," according to the documents.
Among FLDS members, who cover their bodies from neck to ankle, even small physical gestures would be considered inappropriate, said Ken Driggs, a Georgia lawyer and polygamy expert. As for Jeffs' "immoral" conduct, "I wouldn't read too much into it," Driggs said.
"What that community may regard as immoral conduct is not necessarily what the outside world would consider immoral conduct. He could be talking about thoughts, or some affectionate or physical conduct," Driggs said.
A half-brother, Ward Jeffs, said he doesn't believe Warren Jeffs was married or had children at age 20. Warren Jeffs was a teacher at a private FLDS school in Salt Lake City in 1976.
Ward Jeffs, who has left the FLDS church, said he had no knowledge of allegations of inappropriate behavior with a sister. The half-brothers are no longer close.
Defense attorney Wally Bugden said the judge released the documents without his knowledge.
"I had no idea," Bugden told The Salt Lake Tribune. "There are significant due process issues for Mr. Jeffs as it relates to future cases in Arizona and there are significant privacy issues that we believe are protected."
In his order, Shumate did not explain his reasoning for unsealing the documents, and Nancy Volmer, a spokeswoman for the state courts system, said she did not know why the judge made the decision when he did. A court hearing was planned for Nov. 6 on a request by news media and a private investigator to release them as well as others.
Jeffs has led the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints since 2002, taking over from his father. Faithful members hold polygamy as a central tenet of their religion.
The mainstream Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, renounced polygamy more than a century ago, excommunicates members who engage in the practice, and disavows any connection to the FLDS church.
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November 2, 2007
In Recordings From Jail, Polygamist Had Doubts
By KIRK JOHNSON
DENVER, Nov. 1 — The polygamist sect leader Warren S. Jeffs, in a series of jailhouse conversations recorded in January in Utah, renounced his role as a prophet of God and expressed remorse over “immoral actions with a sister and a daughter” when he was 20 years old, according to court documents.
Mr. Jeffs, 51, was found guilty in September of being an accomplice to rape for using his authority as the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to force a 14-year-old girl into an arranged “spiritual marriage.” He faces up to life in prison at his sentencing this month in St. George, Utah.
Details of the jailhouse statements were unsealed this week by Judge James L. Shumate, who presided over the trial of Mr. Jeffs. The documents revealed elements that the jury never heard — a fierce, behind-the-scenes battle over whether prosecutors could use Mr. Jeffs’s words against him, and a new portrait of the defendant himself as he seemed to go through a series of medical and apparently spiritual crises while awaiting trial.
In the conversations — which were taped by jail officials as Mr. Jeffs spoke with family members by telephone and to a brother on videotape — Mr. Jeffs described himself as a “wicked man” who had not legitimately held the priesthood in his church for more than three decades.
Mr. Jeffs did not elaborate on what occurred when he was 20 or how exactly he been “immoral,” according to the documents. It was unclear what he meant by sister and daughter, since those terms can have both familial and religious meanings among polygamists.
Some of the family members argued with Mr. Jeffs, saying he was “being tested” and that he was still the prophet, the documents said. By the next month, February, defense documents said, Mr. Jeffs was encouraging church members in their faith and describing his own low point as “a great spiritual test.”
Mr. Jeffs’s lawyers asserted in legal motions that their client had been suffering from depression and health problems in January when he spoke to his family. They described him as exhausted and fasting, and said that using the statements in the trial would be prejudicial and irrelevant.
In the videotaped meeting with his brother, for example, Mr. Jeffs was dictating “a message of encouragement” to his followers, according to one defense document.
“But he suddenly halted in mid-sentence and remained silent for over 13 minutes,” the defense motion said. Mr. Jeffs’s brother tried to engage him in further conversation, without luck. Toward the end of the visit, “the defendant renounced his role as the prophet,” the defense motion said.
At other points in the phone conversations with his family, Mr. Jeffs still spoke like a man with a conduit to God. The Lord himself, he said, had “revealed to him that he was a wicked man,” according to the papers.
Mr. Jeffs’s church, which has an estimated 10,000 members, mostly across the Southwest, broke off from the mainstream Mormon faith — the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — decades ago over the question of polygamy, a practice the church abandoned in 1890.
Judge Shumate ultimately ruled the jailhouse conversations inadmissible. A court spokeswoman, Nancy Volmer, said she did not know why details from the conversations had been unsealed.
Mr. Jeffs still faces criminal prosecution in Arizona on two charges of sexual conduct with a minor and one charge of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor.
A spokeswoman for the Mohave County attorney said no trial date would be set until the sentencing in Utah, which is scheduled for Nov. 20.
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CNN November 07, 2007
Polygamist Jeffs tried to hang himself in jail, documents say
Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs tried to hang himself earlier this year while he was in jail awaiting trial, according to court documents unsealed by a Utah judge on Tuesday.
Jeffs, the leader and so-called prophet of the 10,000-member Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is now awaiting sentencing after being convicted on two counts of being an accomplice to rape.
The documents, released by Fifth District Judge James Shumate at the request of the media, also indicate that Jeffs confessed to "immorality" with a "sister" and a daughter more than 30 years ago.
Among the documents is a competency report on Jeffs completed in April, in which social worker Eric Nielsen wrote that throughout the month of January, Jeffs refused food and drink and developed ulcers on his knees from kneeling in prayer for hours.
On January 28, the report said, he attempted to hang himself in his cell. In the days following the suicide attempt, while he was on suicide watch, Jeffs on separate occasions threw himself against the wall and banged his head on the wall.
Jail transcripts show that Jeffs' suicide attempt came three days after a visit with his brother, Nephi, in which he said, "I am not the prophet. I never was the prophet, and I have been deceived by the powers of evil ... I ask for everyone's forgiveness." Jeffs also told his brother: "Farewell forever."
The day before that, Jeffs told a follower in a phone conversation that he was "covered with immorality with a sister and a daughter when I was younger." In the FLDS, members call adult women "sister," and Jeffs' meaning was unclear.
Jeffs' defense attorneys, who argued against the release of the documents, said in a motion opposing the unsealing of the statements that Jeffs recanted them the following month. Defense attorneys claim Jeffs' medical condition influenced his state of mind when the statements were made.
They presented Shumate with a letter from another Jeffs attorney, arguing that the statements' release could influence an Arizona jury when Jeffs stands trial in that state.
Jeffs, 51, was convicted in September of being an accomplice to rape. He was accused of using his religious influence over his followers to coerce a 14-year-old girl into marriage to her 19-year-old cousin. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison when he is sentenced November 20.
The FLDS -- which is not affiliated with the mainstream Mormon church -- is based in the side-by-side border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. Jeffs, a former school headmaster, is the son of the sect's previous president and "prophet," Rulon Jeffs, who died in 2002.
Jeffs was on the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives list when he was arrested in August 2006 outside Las Vegas, Nevada.
Critics say that inside the FLDS, marriages are arranged for girls as young as 13, and competition for brides may be reduced by exiling male teens and young men. If male followers are excommunicated, critics claim, wives and children can be reassigned.
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