Lifestyle & Belief

Jury chosen in trial of former Mormon sect leader Wendell Loy Nielsen


Polygamists from Colorado City, Arizona, gather Nov. 14, 2008 in St. George, Utah to protest the sale of land from the FLDS Trust by the state of Utah. FLDS head Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for sexually assaulting two girls.


George Frey

A jury has been chosen in the trial of Texas bigamist and former Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints president Wendell Loy Nielsen, 71.

Nielsen was one of 12 men indicted for crimes including child sexual assault, bigamy and performing an illegal marriage, the Associated Press reported.

They were arrested after an April 2008 raid on the sect's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas.

Ten have been convicted, including Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) "prophet" Warren Jeffs, found guilty last year of sexually assaulting two underage girls he wed as spiritual brides, the younger of them just 12.

More from GlobalPost: Warren Jeffs' niece speaks of relief at his life sentence

Jeffs is serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in prison in Palestine.

Prosecutors believe Nielsen "married" 34 women in addition to his legal wife, however have charged him with only three counts of bigamy, Reuters reported.

It is alleged Nielson married two women on the same day in February 2006.

The FLDS, which teaches that for a man to be among the select in heaven he must have at least three wives, is estimated to have 10,000 followers in North America.

The mainstream Mormon church abandoned the practice of taking multiple wives more than a century ago.

Each count of bigamy is punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000, however according to the AP, questions remain over whether the marriages performed by the sect Nielson once headed were valid under Texas law.

According to the San Angelo Standard-Times, Nielson attended the hearing at the Midland County Courthouse wearing a blue sweater vest, and looked unconcerned as jurors were chosen.

More from GlobalPost: Tough times for Australian billionaires