The American leader of a polygamous sect that includes about 1,000 followers in Bountiful, B.C.,has been found guilty of being an accomplice to rape and could spend the rest of his life in prison.
A jury in St. George, Utah, convicted Warren Jeffs onTuesdayof being an accomplice to rape for performing a wedding between a man, 19,and a 14-year-old girl. Hefaces five years to life in prison on each of the two felony charges.
"Everyone should now know that no one is above the law, religion is not an excuse for abuse and every victim has a right to be heard," said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who had endorsed the prosecution in Washington County.
Prosecutors had said Jeffs forced the girl into marriage and sex against her will. Butdespite Jeffs' conviction, the woman's former husband, Allen Steed, has never been charged with a crime. Prosecutors have not explained why.
During the trial, the woman, now 21, testified that ather wedding in 2001, she cried when pressed by Jeffs to say "I do" and had to be coaxed to kiss her new husband.
She said the first month of marriage the couple didn't have sex.But thenherhusband told heritwas "time for you to be a wife and do your duty."
Shetestified she was shaking and that he "laid me on the bed and had sex."
The woman said she downed two bottles of over-the-counter pain reliever and curled up on the floor.
But Steed testified that his bride was the one to initiate their first sexual encounter. Steed said it was she who approached him after he fell asleep in his clothes after a 12-hour day at work.
Under Utah law, a 14-year-old can consent to sex in some circumstances. But sex is not considered consensual if a person under 18 is enticed by someone at least three years older.
A self-described prophet, Jeffs, 51,is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which broke away from the Mormon church when the latter disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.
Nevada police arrested Jeffs in August 2006 after he had been on the run for more than two years, appearing on the FBI's Most Wanted List.
Jeffs took over the leadership of the sect in 2002.