Sect Leader Convicted of Accessory to Rape Jurors convict Warren Jeffs on charges of accomplice to rape. The leader of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints forced a 14-year-old follower to marry her 19-year-old cousin.
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Sect Leader Convicted of Accessory to Rape

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Sect Leader Convicted of Accessory to Rape

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Sect Leader Convicted of Accessory to Rape

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Yesterday in Utah, Warren Jeffs was convicted on two counts of accessory to rape. Jeffs is the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And that's a sect that practices polygamy. The case involved a 14-year-old follower who accused Jeffs of helping her cousin to rape her after an unwanted marriage.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

WADE GOODWYN: Just after 2:00 in the afternoon, the little courtroom was bursting with sheriffs, deputies, prosecutors, Judge James Shumate, FLDS followers dressed in pioneer clothes, hyper-alert reporters, and finally, Warren Jeffs sitting forlornly at the end of the defense table.

Judge JAMES SHUMATE (Presiding Judge, Fifth District Court): Mr. Finch, I see that you are holding the instructions and verdict form. Has this jury reached a verdict? Would you hand that to the bailiff, please, sir.

GOODWYN: Although many states now allow the defendant to sit and receive his verdict, in Utah, that's not the case.

Judge SHUMATE: Mr. Jeffs, would you please stand as the verdict is read?

GOODWYN: Although Warren Jeffs' lawyers put on a spirited defense, it seemed they, Jeffs, and his followers had also steeled themselves for this guilty verdict.

After decades of placing young women and girls with older men, a 21-year-old woman named Elissa Wall brought down an FLDS prophet.

Ms. ELISSA WALL (Prosecution Witness): This trial has not been about religion. It is simply about child abuse and preventing further abuse.

GOODWYN: Outside the courtroom, Wall spoke to local and national reporters about why she'd come forward. Last week, she allowed the media to use her name to help get her story out.

Wall was 14 when she was married against her will to her 19-year-old first cousin. She did not know what sex was, did not understand how babies were made, and her weeping testimony about how her unwanted husband forced her to have intercourse two weeks after she was married was plenty enough for the jury.

Although Jeffs has been convicted, there are still hundreds of young FLDS girls, and Elissa Wall wanted to speak to them.

Ms. WALL: I have very tender feelings for the FLDS people. I hope all FLDS girls and women will understand that no matter what anyone may say, you are created equal. You do not have to surrender your rights. I know how hard it is, but please, stand up and fight.

GOODWYN: The FLDS culture is potent and the prophet has the power to and does tear up families as a matter of coercing obedience. Wall's family is also split asunder. Her mother and some of her sisters are still believers in their faith and their prophet, Warren Jeffs.

Ms. WALL: Mother, I love you and my sisters unconditionally. I will go to the ends of the Earth for you. I understand and respect your convictions, but I will not give up on you.

GOODWYN: Jeffs' defense lawyers declined to comment except to say that they were disappointed and that the 51-year-old prophet would appeal.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, St. George, Utah.

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