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Polygamist sect leader indicted on sex charges

ELDORADO, Texas — A Texas grand jury indicted polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs and four of his followers Tuesday on charges of felony sexual assault of a child. A sixth person was indicted on charges of failing to report child abuse.

Attorney General Greg Abbott said Jeffs and four other men are charged with one count of sexually assaulting girls under the age of 17. One of them, but not Jeffs, faces an additional charge of bigamy.

Abbott said a sixth member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a renegade Mormon sect, is charged with three counts of failure to report child abuse.

The indictments follow a child custody case in which more than 400 children were placed in foster care. The Texas Supreme Court ruled that child welfare authorities overstepped in taking all the children from their parents and the state failed to show any more than a handful of teenage girls were abused or at risk.

Jeffs, convicted of being an accomplice to rape in Utah and awaiting trial in Arizona on other charges related to underage marriages, is accused of assaulting a girl in Texas in January 2005, according to the indictment.

"Our investigation in this matter is not concluded. This is an ongoing investigation that we intend to continue," said Abbott, whose office is acting as a special prosecutor in the case.

The identities of Jeffs' followers who were indicted were not released because the indictments remain sealed until authorities can arrest the men.

Willie Jessop, a church member and spokesman, said members would face the accusations. "We're actually quite shocked," he said.

Church leaders have denied there was any abuse at the ranch and vowed not to sanction underage marriages.

Polygamist sect leader indicted on sex charges 07/22/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 4:43pm]
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