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Texas prison officials have revoked imprisoned polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs' phone privileges for 90 days after confirming he addressed his congregation twice on Christmas Day over a speakerphone.
Jeffs was found guilty of "a major disciplinary infraction" for talking to a group on two separate 15-minute calls, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons on Monday.
"It was apparent in reviewing the phone calls that he was speaking to more than one person," Lyons said a violation of a rule that says inmates can talk only to people on a 10-person approved visitor list.
In a phone call broadcast over speakers in the LSJ Meetinghouse in Colorado City, Ariz., Jeffs reportedly told the FLDS congregation that they had to be "re-baptized" into the faith by Dec. 31 by following an increasingly strict set of rules or risk being "destroyed" when Jeffs' predicted apocalypse comes.
As a result of that proclamation, more than 1,000 members were reportedly told they weren't "worthy" to attend the main church on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. They were told to meet separately and repent, former members have said.
The sermon was reported by more than one person on Dec. 27 and the Office of the Inspector General opened an investigation, which wrapped up Friday. Jeffs won't be able to make personal phone calls for 90 days, but his visitor and mail privileges remain intact, Lyons said.
When Jeffs gets his phone privileges back, Lyons said officials could make sure the rules are being followed by listening in on his phone calls.
"All phone calls are subject to monitoring at any time. We could review his calls to determine if that particular rule is followed," Lyons said.
Jeffs, 56, is serving a life-plus-20-years sentence in a solitary Texas prison cell after he was convicted in August of sexually assaulting two girls, ages 12 and 15, whom he took as polygamous wives.
He is allowed to talk to his attorney over the phone though he seems to be continuing to represent himself in pending bigamy charges against him.
He was scheduled to go to trial on those charges, which are connected with one of the victims in the sexual assault case, but the date was postponed last week. A pretrial hearing is now set for May 21 at 10 a.m. in Tom Green County, the San Angelo Standard-Times reported Monday.
Another church elder also got a pretrial hearing date. Wendell Loy Nielsen, a former FLDS president, is charged with three counts of bigamy in spiritual marriages to middle-age women. He initially took a plea bargain and got probation, but when a judge levied conditions he saw as too strict, Nielsen decided to go to trial instead.
Attorneys will consider whether the trial should be moved out of San Angelo in a pretrial set for 10 a.m. Jan. 30, the Standard-Times reported.
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