Texas officials suspend Warren Jeffs' phone privileges

CNN/January 4, 2012

Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs' phone privileges have been suspended, as investigators look into whether he preached from prison, authorities said Tuesday.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced last week that it had initiated an investigation into claims that Jeffs used the phone to preach to his congregation on Christmas Day.

Records show that Jeffs made two phone calls on Christmas Day, said Jason Clark, a Criminal Justice Department spokesman, who declined to identify the people who lost their phone privileges with Jeffs.

"It would be a violation of the rules if the person called were to place the call on speaker phone or record the conversation. The Office of Inspector General has asked us to suspend the accounts of certain individuals on his calling list while they continue to investigate," said Clark.

Texas inmates are allowed to call as many as 10 people who have registered with the offender phone system vendor. Calls can be up to 15 minutes in length, and offenders are limited to 240 minutes of phone time per month. All calls are recorded and monitored except those between an inmate and his attorney.

Jeffs remains isolated in protective custody in the state's Powledge Unit prison facility near Palestine, Texas.

"He has no cellmate. No prison job. And the only time he leaves it (his cell) is for a shower and recreation," Clark said.

Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is serving a life-plus-20-year term in Texas for sexual assault. He was convicted in early August of the aggravated sexual assaults of a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl that Jeffs claimed were his "spiritual wives."

The 10,000-member church is a breakaway Mormon sect that openly practices polygamy in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, as well as on its Yearning For Zion ranch near Eldorado, Texas. The mainstream Mormon church renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

Many sect members have disavowed Jeffs over his criminal convictions, while others are defending him and casting his conviction on sexual assault charges as an act of persecution.

Last week, a long-time follower of Jeffs said he had been ex-communicated after admitting to having sex with his wife -- a violation of an order that the sect leader apparently issued from behind bars. The church member spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

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