Jeffs, 2 other FLDS leaders charged with bigamy

San Antonio Express News/August 22, 2008

Bigamy charges have been filed in Texas against jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs and two other members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

All three men were charged last month with sexual assault of a child in connection with underage marriages.

Charged along with Jeffs on Thursday were Raymond Merril Jessop, 36, and Michael George Emack, 57. The pair surrendered to Schleicher County authorities Friday afternoon, said the sheriff there, David Doran. Both were released after each posted $10,000 bond, Doran said.

The bigamy charges were filed but not disclosed Thursday by a Schleicher County grand jury hearing evidence regarding underage marriages alleged to have taken place at the breakaway Mormon sect's sprawling ranch just outside Eldorado.

"Their attorneys brought them in. They arrived one at a time. They were booked, photographed, fingerprinted and processed. The whole thing took half an hour (for each)," Doran said.

The Schleicher County grand jury returned the bigamy charges after meeting for more than seven hours and hearing from at least eight witnesses, including seven young FLDS women. A source close to the group said prosecutors were getting no help from the witnesses; each was invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, whether the state viewed them as suspects or victims.

The grand jury is scheduled next month to hear more evidence regarding minor girls supposedly being spiritually married to older men.

Bigamy, being married to two people at the same time, is a felony in Texas, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Jeffs is in an Arizona jail awaiting trial on sex-related abuse charges. He was convicted of sexual abuse in Utah last year and sentenced to as much as two life terms.

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