Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who has been silent since his trial began last Thursday, spoke for the first time with the jury present Friday.
Jeffs is charged with two counts of sexual assault for raping two under-aged girls and fathering a child with one of the girls.
Objecting to the testimony from an FBI agent about documents seized from his church’s compound in 2008, Jeffs delivered a 55-minute speech arguing that the raid on the church was illegal and that charges brought upon him and other members of the FLDS were unwarranted.
“You are now touching that which is sacred. Thus on these grounds we call upon this court to render justice before sacred trust is trampled upon,” Jeffs said during his objection.
During the raid of the Yearning for Zion Ranch, executed after a tip that turned out to be a hoax, police witnessed several underage girls who were heavily pregnant.
This led to the arrest of Jeffs as well as 11 other men of the FLSD. Thus far, seven men have been tried and convicted of sexual assault and bigamy, among other crimes, and have received sentences of between six and 75 years. Jeffs himself may receive up to 119-years in prison if convicted.
In his testimony on Friday, Jeffs said there was no crime, explaining that he and both girls had a “spiritual” marriage bond. He went on to say that the FLDS must “follow the law set out for it by God.”
“If we do not live these laws we are damned here and hereafter. We believe in a marriage system of eternity called celestial marriage, wherein celestial means heavenly authorized, not to be intervened by government intervention,” Jeffs said.
Jeffs ended his speech by saying, “Amen.”
Jeffs remained completely silent during the first four days of the trial, during which he dismissed his defense team in order to serve as his own defense, and refused to give an opening statement after the judge declined his request for more time to prepare.
“Mr. Jeffs, the court is not going to recess these proceeding to let you go to law school,” said U.S. District Judge Barbara Walther.
In the meanwhile, special prosecutor for the Texas attorney general’s office, Eric Nichols, delivered his opening statement, detailing that he will submit as evidence an audio recording of Jeffs having sex with a 12-year-old as well as a DNA report confirming Jeffs as the father of a 15-year-old FLSD member’s child.
Jeffs remained silent throughout the prosecution’s opening statement but interjected repeatedly during Nichol’s response to his speech.
Judge Walther recessed the court and directed that Jeffs speak with his counsel, who remains available in case they are needed, about proper court decorum.
Director of criminal clinics for the Texas Tech School of Law, Patrick Metze, commented on the case, saying Jeffs won’t be able to continue the trial without lawyers.
“At some point, the judge will have had enough, so it’s not going to be a pleasnt experience and she’s not just going to let him prophesize,” Metze told the San Angelo Standard Times.