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Polygamist 'prophet' to serve at least 10 years in prison

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Polygamist leader declines to speak at sentencing; defense plans to appeal
  • Consecutive sentences mean Warren Jeffs will serve at least 10 years
  • Jeffs sentenced to five years to life on each of two charges of accomplice to rape
  • He's accused of arranging marriage of an unwilling 14-year-old to her cousin
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(CNN) -- A Utah judge Tuesday sentenced polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs to two consecutive prison terms of five years to life for his conviction on two counts of being an accomplice to rape, a court spokeswoman said.

Warren Jeffs listens to closing defense arguments during his trial in St. George, Utah, in September.

The consecutive sentences mean Jeffs will serve at least 10 years. The exact amount of time he serves will be determined by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole in the future.

Jeffs, 51, the "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, was convicted in September.

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.

Fifth District Judge James Shumate ordered that Jeffs be remanded immediately to the Utah State Prison near Salt Lake City, and fined him about $38,000. Video Watch the judge sentence Jeffs »

Jeffs will receive credit for time served, Shumate said.

The girl, Elissa Wall, now 21, testified that she repeatedly told Jeffs at the time that she did not want to be married and was uncomfortable with sexual advances from her husband, Allen Steed.

Jeffs advised her to pray and to submit to her husband, learn to love him and bear his children -- or risk losing her "eternal salvation," the woman testified.

Wall's attorneys made her name public at the end of the trial, with her consent. She is married to someone else and has left the FLDS.

Questioned by Shumate during Tuesday's sentencing hearing, Wall maintained she did not seek restitution from Jeffs.

"My restitution is knowing that I spoke the truth, and you and the justice system have done your job, and I respect that very much, and I have faith and confidence that you will continue the healing process for me," she told the judge.

Offered the opportunity to speak, Jeffs did not. He showed no reaction as the sentence was imposed.

In sentencing Jeffs, Shumate noted that 14 is under the legal marriage age in Utah and said Jeffs knew the marriage was unlawful. "First cousins of this age cannot marry lawfully in the state of Utah," he said.

He also denied a motion filed November 9 by Jeffs' defense attorneys asking him to set aside the jury's verdict. "A reasonable juror could not have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt from the state's purely circumstantial evidence that Jeffs encouraged another to rape Elissa Wall," the motion said.

Defense attorney Wally Bugden told Shumate he intends to appeal.

"We intend to do everything we can to reverse the verdict," Bugden told reporters after the hearing. "We do not believe the facts and the law support the charge of accomplice to rape." See a timeline of events leading up to the sentencing »

Two weeks ago, Shumate unsealed court documents indicating that Jeffs tried to hang himself while he was awaiting trial in January.

The documents, released at the request of the media, also indicated that Jeffs confessed to "immorality" with a "sister" and a daughter more than 30 years ago. The FLDS calls adult women "sister," so Jeffs' meaning is unclear.

Jeffs' attorneys said in a motion opposing the unsealing of the statements that their client recanted them the following month. Defense attorneys claim Jeffs' medical condition influenced his state of mind when he made those statements.

Members of the FLDS, based in the side-by-side border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, openly practice polygamy. Jeffs, who is considered a prophet by his followers, has led the 10,000-member sect since his father's death in 2002. The FLDS is not affiliated with the mainstream Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


He has drawn critical attention to the FLDS by allegedly arranging marriages to girls as young as 13, exiling male teens and young men to reduce competition for brides, and reassigning the wives and children of excommunicated male followers.

Jeffs, who was once on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, was captured in Nevada in August 2006 after two years on the run. In addition to the Utah charges, he also faces multiple counts in Arizona of being an accomplice to incest and sex with minors. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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