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Five members of polygamous sect surrender

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  • Four followers charged with one count of sexually assaulting a girl under 17
  • A fifth follower is charged with three counts of failure to report child abuse
  • A Texas grand jury indicted sect leader Jeffs last week
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(CNN) -- Five members of a polygamous sect who were indicted alongside leader Warren Jeffs last week turned themselves in Monday to face sexual assault charges, Texas authorities said.

From top left, clockwise: Allan Keate, Raymond Jessop, Michael Emack and Merrill Jessop were all indicted.

Four of Jeffs' followers were charged with one count of sexually assaulting a girl under the age of 17, and each faces five to 99 years in prison, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.

One of those four also faces a bigamy charge.

A fifth follower is charged with three counts of failure to report child abuse, he said.

Bail for the defendants facing felony charges -- Raymond Merrill Jessop, 36, Allan Eugene Keate, 56, Michael George Emack, 57, and Merrill Leroy Jessop, 33 -- was set at $100,000 each. Lloyd Hammon Barlow, 38, charged with the misdemeanor failure to report child abuse, faces a sentence of up to six months in prison and a fine of $2,000 per count.

A Texas grand jury indicted Jeffs last week on sexual assault charges, Abbott said.

Jeffs was charged Tuesday with sexual assault of a child, a first-degree felony. A conviction on the charge could mean a maximum penalty of five to 99 years or life in prison and a fine of $10,000, said Dirk Fillpot, a spokesman for the attorney general.

Jeffs, 52, is the leader and "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which broke from mainstream Mormonism in the 1890s over the practice of polygamy.

The FLDS openly practices polygamy at its Yearning for Zion Ranch outside Eldorado, Texas, and in two towns straddling the Utah-Arizona state line: Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona.

Jeffs is accused in the indictment of assaulting a child "younger than 17 years of age and not legally married to the defendant" in January 2005.

The alleged victim, whose name is redacted on the document, "was a person who the defendant was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the defendant was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married" under Texas law.

Calls to Jeffs' attorney Michael Piccarreta and FLDS spokesman Rod Parker were not immediately returned Monday.

As part of the case, Texas authorities took DNA samples from Jeffs in May, saying at the time they were investigating allegations he "spiritually" married four girls ranging in age from 12 to 15.

A search warrant seeking the samples said marital records -- also known as bishop's records -- from the YFZ Ranch showed that Jeffs married a 14-year-old girl in January 2004 in Utah. The records showed that Jeffs "married" three other underage brides -- two 12-year-olds and a 14-year-old -- at the ranch, the search warrant said.

One of the 12-year-olds, believed to have married Jeffs in July 2006, was sexually assaulted by him later that day, the documents said.

The warrant made reference to pictures of Jeffs with his alleged underage brides. In one photograph, the warrant states, he is kissing one of the 12-year-olds. In another, he is with a 15-year-old wife at the birth of their child in October 2004.

The DNA samples, authorities said, would be used to determine whether Jeffs was the father of children born to the underage mothers.


Critics of the FLDS say it forces girls as young as 13 to marry older men. FLDS members maintain that no sexual abuse of children takes place.

In April, the YFZ Ranch was thrust into the spotlight after a raid in which child welfare workers seized more than 400 children. After a court battle, the Texas Supreme Court ordered the children returned, saying the state had no right to remove them and that there was no evidence to show the children faced imminent danger of abuse on the ranch.

All About Warren JeffsFundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

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