Followers of the FLDS polygamist sect consider Warren Jeffs to be a prophet of God. To authorities in Texas, he is an inmate serving a life sentence for having sex with underage girls. But there are now serious questions about whether Jeffs is still leading the group from behind bars and whether his followers remain devoted. Gary Tuchman investigates and goes inside a mansion some followers built for Jeffs and his wives.
Gary Tuchman reports on a tip about convicted polygamist Warren Jeffs's sect having FLDS children harvest pecans instead of attending school.
Critics say police in Colorado City, Arizona, ignore laws and remain loyal to jailed polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs.
The Arizona Senate passed legislation that would abolish the police department there and end corruption, but it failed to pass in the House. CNN's Gary Tuchman reports.
Despite his imprisonment, Jeffs continues to rule over his followers. Gary Tuchman reports on his frightening influence.
Editor's note: Emily Detoto, Jeffs' lawyer and Flora Jessop, a former member of his sect speak out after his verdict.
Editor's note: Warren Jeffs found guilty, Michael Watkiss and Gary Tuchman discuss.
Editor's note: Gary Tuchman and Michael Watkiss have the latest in the trial of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs.
San Angelo, Texas (CNN) - Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs sat silent in a Texas court Thursday afternoon, declining to give an opening statement in his sexual assault trial hours after winning the right to defend himself.
Hours earlier, Jeffs delivered an impassioned 30-minute speech, saying "true justice cannot be served" if he does not act as his own attorney. Judge Barbara Walther granted the request - but did not push back the start of opening arguments from Thursday afternoon, as the defendant had hoped.
Jeffs is charged in Texas with two counts of sexual assault on a child and one count of bigamy stemming from a 2008 raid on a ranch operated by his church, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is expected to be tried later on the bigamy charge.
When his sexual assault trial resumed Thursday afternoon, Walther again urged Jeffs - who was sitting between two empty chairs, with a notebook and pen in front of him - to use his defense team.
After about 30 seconds of silence, he said, "I object to proceedings continuing" and then declined to elaborate.
Prosecutors then gave their opening arguments, telling jurors that they would hear an audiotape documenting the sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl. They also promised to present DNA evidence proving that Jeffs fathered a baby girl with a 14-year-old girl.
Afterward, the judge and others waited for Jeffs to give his own opening statement. Instead, for about a minute, he remained silent, with his head down, as the jurors looked back and forth between the defendant and judge.
Walther said she understood that, by Jeffs' silence, he had chosen not to give a statement. Then she gave prosecutors the go-ahead to start calling witnesses.
Jeffs' silence in the San Angelo, Texas, courtroom was a stark contrast to his comments earlier, when he argued to Walther that his attorneys "do not have the full understanding of (the) facts" and are unwilling to follow his ideas on how to present the case.
The judge gave Jeffs warnings regarding the perils of representing himself - with the defendant insisting he understood them all. One of his ex-lawyers must be available to him at all times to answer any questions Jeffs might have, Walther ruled.
The defendant said he had been trying to serve as his own attorney all along, because he felt no counsel could adequately represent him. He insisted then that his intentions were "sincere" as he sought to "present a full defense."
"My release of counsel has been with great thought," Jeffs said. "I stand before the court presenting this need for true justice to be served."
Walther ruled to allow Jeff to exercise his constitutional right and defend himself, and granted his request to have one of his former lawyers available to him at all times.FULL STORY
Editor’s Note: CNN’s Gary Tuchman explores the latest developments in the saga of polygamist Warren Jeffs, the jailed leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Part 2 of a special report on Wednesday’s “AC 360” and for CNN Presents, airing Sunday, July 31, at 8 p.m. ET.
El Dorado, Texas (CNN) – Fundamentalist Mormon leader Warren Jeffs has been held in a tiny jail in this west Texas town for roughly three years. According to his jailers, he has spent his time doing one thing above all else: talking on the phone..
Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran told CNN that in one month, Jeffs has spent roughly $3,000 on phone cards.
And while Jeffs was recently held in another Texas jail roughly 50 miles away, he spent close to $10,000 in phone cards in three months.
Reagan County Sheriff James Garner, who oversees that jail, told CNN that no inmate there has ever spent that much money on phone cards.
Authorities say Jeffs has received money from loyal followers and that he uses much of it to buy phone time to deliver lengthy sermons to acolytes in Texas, Utah and Arizona.
Some Jeffs experts say the calls are proof that he’s running his church from behind bars.
And officially, Jeffs still leads the breakaway sect called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), which firmly believes in polygamy.
Leaders of the mainstream Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have repeatedly disavowed Jeffs and say his group of roughly 10,000 followers in no way represents their religion.
The official LDS church banned polygamy more than a century ago.
Jury selection for Jeff’s sexual assault trial began in Texas on Monday. He is charged with two counts of sexual assault on a child and one count of bigamy.
Jeffs has pleaded not guilty to the charges.FULL STORY on the CNN Belief Blog
It was a cold, crisp Texas morning when Gary Tuchman, photojournalist Mike Love and I showed up to the Tom Green County Courthouse today just after dawn. We wanted to make sure we got there early in hopes of getting Warren Jeffs to talk with us as he was scheduled to arrive in court.
The self proclaimed prophet and polygamist sect leader was transferred here last week after being extradited from Utah.
The leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) was indicted on bigamy and sexual assault charges stemming from an alleged spiritual marriage to a 12-year-old girl.
Prosecutors filed the charges 2 years ago after authorities raided the sect's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas and removed more than 400 children on suspicion that they were exposed to sexual abuse.
Most of the children were returned to the ranch with their families, but many of the men living on the ranch were charged with sexual abuse.
About 45 minutes after we arrived, an SUV pulled up to the courthouse and Warren Jeffs was taken out of the backseat. He was wearing glasses, orange jail pants and a grey sweatshirt.
Sheriff's deputies escorted Jeffs who was handcuffed and had has ankles shackled. Gary asked him if he still felt that he was the prophet as he was entering the building. Jeffs' ignored the questions, but at the Yearning for Zion ranch, we heard from one FLDS member who says Jeffs is certainly the prophet.