Polygamist leader guilty of bigamy

March 28, 2012 at 8:40 PM

MIDLAND, Texas, March 28 (UPI) -- Texas jurors found former Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leader Wendell Loy Nielsen guilty on three counts of bigamy Wednesday.

Nielsen, 71, was accused of marrying three women in 2006, two of them on the same day, the San Angelo Standard-Times reported. Each of the three counts of third-degree felony bigamy could earn Nielsen 2-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

This was the first bigamy case to go to trial as a result of an April 2008 raid on the polygamist group's Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado. Police searched the ranch after learning of possible sexual abuse.

Then-church leader Warren Jeffs -- who was arrested as part of the raid -- is serving life plus 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old girl. He is scheduled for a bigamy trial, the newspaper said.

Court documents allege Nielsen married 34 women in addition to his legal wife, Linda Black, and presided over the marriage ceremonies of 12- and 16-year-old girls to Jeffs.

The fundamentalist group is not affiliated with mainstream Mormonism, which does not allow polygamy.

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