Defense rests in Warren Jeffs sentencing
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San Angelo, Texas • The defense on Monday rested its case in the punishment phase of the Warren Jeffs child sex-assault trial.

Jed Silverman, a Houston lawyer who came on as Jeffs' latest defense attorney on Saturday, asked the judge for more time to prepare a case, but was refused.

He then rested his case.

The state had rested its case at 6:15 p.m. Texas time.

The jury recessed for the day and will begin deliberations on Jeffs' sentencing Tuesday.

The sentencing hearing for the polygamous sect leader resumed Monday as jurors heard more audio recordings of Jeffs giving underage wives sexual instruction and having intercourse.

In one audio recording prosecutors played for jurors, Jeffs gave sexual instructions to four wives, one of whom prosecutors say was 14. Two of them were sisters.

Prosecutors also played a recording they said depicts Jeffs having sex in the baptismal font in the basement of the soaring white temple located on the YFZ Ranch.

In another recording made hours later, he is heard speaking to three wives, and refers to one by name who is younger than 15 years old.

In yet another tape, he is heard giving instructions to three wives between 13 and 15 years old, referring to "heavenly sessions," a byword for sex, and saying "You must realize, that when you got married, you gave yourself to me, mind and body."

Jurors had visible reactions to the recordings, one woman crying as the first audio of Jeffs giving sexual instructions was played.

Jeffs eventually took 12 wives under age 16, according to the testimony of a Texas FBI agent.

Agent John Broadway took the witness stand Monday morning to testify about Jeffs' efforts to evade capture before his 2006 arrest on accomplice to rape charges in Utah. Jeffs purchased what the agent called "places of refuge," including property in Eldorado, Texas that would become the sect's Yearning for Zion ranch.

Jurors also saw photos of the 14 months Jeffs was on the run from law enforcement before his August 2006 arrest. The pictures, along with much of the evidence in Jeffs' trial, was captured in a massive 2008 raid on the YFZ Ranch prompted by a hoax call from a woman pretending to be an underage wife.

The images show Jeffs dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, and a favorite wife, Naomi Jeffs, in a tank top, with her hair worn loose — a sharp contrast with the typical FLDS style. They were also pictured together in leather jackets on an orange Harley Davidson.

Jeffs manipulated many of the young girls and their families into underage marriages, prosecutors said. Fathers and their sons would be brought to the YFZ ranch or be given young wives themselves, they said.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Jeffs had excommunicated 67 men from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as of 2006. He has since kicked out many more, including top leaders, former members have told the The Salt Lake Tribune. The men's families were "re-assigned" to other men.

Prosecutors also said they can prove Jeffs knew what he was doing was illegal. In a Jan. 25, 2004 priesthood record Jeffs wrote in reference to his underage wives: "If the world knew what I was doing they would hang me from the highest tree and they would do even greater than that."

Jeffs, who represented himself at trial, was brought to court Monday morning and informed he had the right to be present for the sentencing hearing. Jeffs did not stay and gave a slight smile to onlookers as he walked out of the courtroom.

The 10-woman, two-man jury last week convicted Jeffs of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sexual assault of a child in connection with two underage marriages. Prosecutors are now seeking to ensure Jeffs receives the maximum punishment possible — life in prison — by telling jurors about 22 years of other alleged misdeeds.

lwhitehurst@sltrib.com

Twitter: lindsaywhitehurst

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