Child polygamist prison hunger strike

Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs has been hospitalized after not eating or drinking enough since his recent conviction on child sexual assault charges, a prison official said Monday.

The 55-year-old head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is in critical but stable condition, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons told The Associated Press.

It is uncertain how long he will be hospitalized.

Lyons said he told prison officials he had been fasting.

Jeffs attorney Emily Detoto told the AP that he was taken to East Texas Medical Center in Tyler on Sunday night. She says he “hasn’t been feeling well” but wouldn’t elaborate.

A hospital spokeswoman said she could not release any information about whether Jeffs was a patient.

Jeffs was convicted earlier this month of sexually assaulting underage followers he took as spiritual brides. He had been in a Huntsville prison after a jury decided he should spend life in prison, then was moved last week to the Powledge Unit outside Palestine, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Dallas.

The punishment was the harshest possible and Jeffs isn’t eligible for parole until he is at least 100 years old.

Jeffs has been in protective custody, which is among the most restrictive forms of imprisonment in Texas. He was to be alone in his cell daily, not be involved in any work programs and be out of his cell only for recreation alone and to shower.

Jeffs is among only 85 inmates in the 156,000-prisoner Texas corrections system to be assigned protective custody.

Former church members have said Jeffs likely would continue to lead his Utah-based church from inside prison and that his followers likely still revere him as a prophet despite the considerable evidence presented at his trial showing he sexually assaulted girls as young as 12.

During his trial, prosecutors used DNA evidence to show Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old and played an audio recording of what they said was him sexually assaulting a 12-year-old. Both were among 24 underage wives who prosecutors said Jeffs collected.

The basic principles of Jeffs’ FLDS are rooted in polygamy, a legacy of early Mormon church teachings that held plural marriage brought exaltation in heaven. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the mainstream Mormon church, abandoned the practice in 1890 as a condition of Utah’s statehood and excommunicates members who engage in the practice.

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