Jeffs in medically induced coma after fast in Texas
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A fast has landed convicted polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs in a Texas hospital, where he remained in critical condition on Tuesday.

"Jeffs has not been eating/taking in fluids as he should," spokesman Jason Clark said in a press release. "He indicated he was not on a hunger strike but fasting."

Other unspecified medical problems also required hospitalization, said Clark, who declined to say how long the fast lasted before Jeffs was taken Sunday night to the East Texas Medical Center in Tyler.

Jeffs is in a medically induced coma after a three-day fast, said Sam Brower, a private detective who has spent seven years investigating Jeffs and is the author of the forthcoming Prophet's Prey, about Jeffs and the sect he leads. Though Clark declined to speak further, an unnamed Texas prison official confirmed Jeffs' condition to The Associated Press.

The 55-year-old leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month after a jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting two girls, ages 12 and 15, whom he took as plural wives. The Texas prison system does force-feed inmates if "it's deemed medical necessary," Clark said.

The hospital trip came two days after a Texas appeals court ruling upheld a search warrant that led to a massive raid on Jeffs' followers' Yearning for Zion Ranch in 2008. The evidence seized in that raid formed the basis of the sexual assault cases against him.

Jeffs is serving his sentence in a solitary cell in Palestine. Jeffs was assigned a solo cell due to the media attention on his case and the fact that his crimes were against children, which make him a possible target of violence from other inmates, Clark said.

This is at least the fourth time that prison fasts and other self-imposed health problems have put Jeffs in a hospital during the five years he has been behind bars. Monday marked the fifth anniversary of his arrest on a Nevada highway.

While awaiting trial on accomplice-to-rape charges in Utah, Jeffs was hospitalized due to both lack of food and ulcers on his knees from long periods spent praying. His failing health was part of a downward spiral that culminated with a renunciation of his role as FLDS prophet and a suicide attempt in January 2007. He recovered and later recanted.

After a Utah jury convicted him of presiding over a marriage between an unwilling 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin, Jeffs spent time at the Utah State Prison infirmary on at least one other occasion due to fasting.

After he was sent to Arizona to face similar charges in early 2008, Jeffs was force-fed with a feeding tube several times and jailers used soft restraints to limit his time spent on his knees praying.

The Arizona charges were dismissed and his Utah conviction was overturned last summer.

Jeffs was extradited to Texas late last year, and jailers there said he had been generally healthy while awaiting trial, using his recreational time and occasionally fasting, but not endangering himself.

Jeffs was not self-destructive while housed in the Schleicher County Jail, said Sheriff David Doran.

"He would do fasting while he was here, but it was a controlled fast, where he did drink juice, eat a minimal amount," he said. "We didn't have any major problems because of his health."

He also appeared healthy during his approximately two-week trial in Texas earlier this month, when he represented himself after firing a team of seven high-profile attorneys. Launching into occasional sermon-like speeches, Jeffs continually objected to the proceedings as violating his freedom of religion and breaking a "sacred trust," but never addressed the charges themselves — even to proclaim his innocence.

He was convicted in Texas of two charges of sexual assault of a child and sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years. He is scheduled to go to trial again on a bigamy charge in October.

Despite his conviction, former members of the FLDS say Jeffs is still considered a prophet and leader by a majority of the sect's 10,000 members, most of whom are based along the Utah-Arizona border. Since the trial began, his followers have been told he's becoming a martyr, according to former members.

lwhitehurst@sltrib.comTwitter: @lwhitehurst The Polygamy Blog: sltrib.com/blogs/polygblog