Jailed polygamist leader hospitalized

July 9, 2008 7:48:28 PM PDT
Polygamous-sect leader Warren Jeffs was in fair condition Wednesday under tight security at a Nevada hospital, a day after he was found convulsive, weak and feverish in an Arizona jail cell, a sheriff's spokeswoman said. Jail staff members guarding Jeffs at the hospital didn't think his condition appeared to be life-threatening, said Trish Carter, spokeswoman for Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan, but "we're not told what his diagnosis is."

The 52-year-old leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was conscious but in a "weakened state of health, acting in a convulsive manner, shaking, and running a fever" when he was found Tuesday his solo jail cell in Kingman, Ariz., Carter said.

That led jailers to move Jeffs from the Mohave County jail to the Kingman Regional Medical Center. He was then flown about 100 miles to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas.

The sheriff issued a statement saying Jeffs would be "under heavy guard 24 hours a day" while being treated in Las Vegas for "an unknown medical condition."

Mike Piccarreta, a lawyer for Jeffs, acknowledged that he was hospitalized but refused to discuss his medical condition.

"I think anyone that was being incarcerated as a result of persecution for his religious beliefs would not be in good health," Piccarreta said.

Hospital spokesman Dan Davidson said he had no patient listed under Jeffs' name and could provide no further information.

The FLDS is a breakaway sect of the Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago. The group, which has nearly 6,000 followers, practices polygamy in arranged marriages that have sometimes involved underage girls.

One of their ranches was raided in west Texas in April, setting off a legal battle over the custody of hundreds of children.

Jeffs was convicted by a Utah jury last year on two counts of first-degree felony rape as an accomplice for his role in the 2001 marriage of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin. He was sentenced to two consecutive terms of five years to life in prison.

Jeffs is charged in Arizona as an accomplice with four counts of sexual conduct with a minor stemming from the marriages of two girls. He had also been charged with four counts of incest as an accomplice, but those charges were thrown out last month.

In dropping the accomplice to incest charges last month, Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven Conn found that state incest law does not apply to the arranged marriages of two teenage girls and their older male relatives.

--- Associated Press writers Bob Christie in Phoenix and Jennifer Dobner in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.