SAN ANGELO, Texas -- It's show time in Texas. Monday morning, hundreds of prospective jurors will begin arriving at the old historic courthouse in the west Texas town of San Angelo as the long-awaited trail of polygamous prophet Warren Steed Jeffs finally gets under way.
Jeffs, 55, is charged with sexually assaulting two young girls -- one of them reportedly only 12-years-old, the other girl under the age of 17. Both alleged victims were reportedly taken as "plural brides" by Jeffs on his enclosed compound outside the tiny nearby town of Eldorado at a time when Jeffs was a fugitive from the law and on the run from criminal charges in Utah and Arizona.
Sunday evening, yellow police tape surrounded the lawns outside the old courthouse.
This is a very high-profile prosecution. Not only is Jeffs on trial, but so is the state of Texas. The Lone Star State took a public-relations beating after the raid on Jeffs' Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch three years ago. More than 400 children were removed from the compound only to be ordered returned in the tumultuous weeks that followed.
To many people, Texas looked terribly heavy-handed, an unflattering image aggressively promoted in the immediate aftermath by FLDS mothers, spokesmen and attorneys and aided by members of the media more interested in access to the polygamists' compound than in doing their jobs and asking tough questions. Since then, Texas prosecutors have systematically put together the successful prosecution of seven FLDS men on charges of sexually assaulting underage girls and Texas juries have given all of the men significant prison sentences.
Despite those successes, Jeff's' trail is different and prosecutors know it. This is their opportunity to show the world exactly what Texas Rangers found on the YFZ Ranch.
Jeffs’ lawyers will fight vigorously to keep what sources tell me is very damning evidence against Jeffs out of the courtroom and away from jurors.
I will be here throughout the week reporting on the events as they unfold.