Former FLDS leader found guilty of bigamy in Texas

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by Mike Watkiss

Bio | Email | Follow: @mikewatkiss3TV

azfamily.com

Posted on March 28, 2012 at 5:47 PM

Updated Saturday, Mar 31 at 11:07 AM

MIDLAND, Texas -- A 71-year-old man named Wendell Nielsen was found guilty Wednesday of the crime of bigamy by a jury in Midland, Texas. 

For years Nielsen has been a power player in the closed and secretive community led by polygamous prophet Warren Jeffs.

The jury of five women and seven men took only 90 minutes to find that Nielsen had taken three middle-aged women as "plural brides" when he was already legally married.

Defense lawyers argued that Nielsen's marriages were "celestial" or "spiritual" and not a violation of Texas law. 

The jury didn't buy it.

Nielsen, who is believed to have about 34 wives, was once one of the most trusted supporters and allies of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.

The conviction keeps Texas prosecutors' winning streak intact. 

Following the controversial raid on Warren Jeffs' YFZ Ranch, a dozen FLDS men including Jeffs, were indicted on various charges ranging for sexual assault to bigamy. 

With Nielsen's conviction today, 11 of those 12 men have now been found guilty or pleaded no contest to criminal charges. Neilsen could get up to ten years in prison.

The aggressive approach of Texas authorities continues to create a stark and dramatic contrast with what many perceive as the inaction and inattention of officials in Arizona where a bill that would decertify the corrupt police department of Colorado City now seems to have stalled in the legislature as the session approaches its end.

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