Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs might have preached from prison
Texas prison officials are investigating whether jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs preached to his flock from prison on Christmas Day in violation of prison rules, officials told The Times on Thursday.
Jeffs, 56, is serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting two girls he married as "spiritual brides" when they were 12 and 14 years old at his breakaway Mormon sect's West Texas ranch.
"We have confirmed that Jeffs made two phone calls on Christmas Day to a relative," Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark told The Times. "At this point, we're investigating whether he may have circumvented policy and may have spoken to his congregation."
If so, Jeffs could be trying to maintain control over his sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which claims 10,000 followers in North America and teaches that a man should have at least three wives. The sect has been condemned by the mainstream Mormon Church for promoting marriages with underage girls.
Clark wouldn't say what sparked the investigation. He said the department's Office of Inspector General was investigating and that Jeffs could face internal punishment, including the loss of telephone privileges.
Earlier this year, Jeffs was hospitalized for nearly a month after a fast that former sect members described as a bid to persuade followers across North America to sacrifice on his behalf.
Texas prison inmates must adhere to a strict set of telephone rules and are often allowed to call only 10 people on an approved visitation list, Clark said.
"Those people have to have gone through a vetting process, meaning that phone number has to be registered, it has to be registered to a land-line," he said.
"If the calls he made on Christmas were put on speaker phone or patched through to someone else, that would be a violation of policy," Clark said, adding that recording the conversation would also be a violation of prison rules.
Texas prison inmates are not allowed to have cellphones, and their telephone calls are monitored to ensure they do not call crime victims, organize escapes, or otherwise abuse the system.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston
Photo: A law enforcement officer, left, escorts polygamist religious leader Warren Jeffs into the Tom Green County Courthouse on Aug. 4, 2011, in San Angelo, Texas. Credit: Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press.