Nielsen is one of 12 Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints men, including Jeffs, charged following a massive 2008 raid on the sect's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. His was the only case not to involve underage marriage.
At trial, defense attorney David Botsford argued Nielsen's marriages were never intended to be legal unions but rather celestial marriages that sect members believed would give the women a path to heaven. But prosecutor Eric Nichols said the unions fit the legal definition of marriage and were illegal.
Prosecutors during the sentencing phase presented evidence that Nielsen was married to 30 women, and witnessed 50 underage marriages to other men. The evidence of those so-called bad acts didn't rise to the level of a crime but were designed to speak to Nielsen's character.
Nielsen initially pleaded no contest in the case and was sentenced to probation but later withdrew his plea because a judge imposed stricter terms than those he'd agreed to, and he wasn't able to transfer his probation to Colorado, where he has family.
Nielsen once served as the sect's president until Jeffs reclaimed the office from his jail cell early last year. He was reportedly excommunicated then, along with dozens of FLDS men and other top leaders.
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