Skip to main content

Jury selection under way in Warren Jeffs sexual assault trial

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: The judge says the trial could last two to three weeks
  • A polygamous sect leader faces charges of sexual assault and bigamy
  • They stem from a 2008 raid on a ranch operated by his church

(CNN) -- Jury selection in the sexual assault trial of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs began in Texas on Monday, nearly a week after his motion to remove a judge assigned to the case was denied.

District Judge Barbara Walther told the pool of potential jurors the trial could last two to three weeks.

Jeffs is charged with two counts of sexual assault on a child and one count of bigamy stemming from a 2008 raid on a ranch operated by his church.

Authorities raided the Yearning for Zion ranch near Eldorado, Texas, and removed 400 children who they feared had been sexually abused.

Some of the men at the ranch were charged with sexual abuse and most of the children were later returned to their families.

The ranch is operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, an offshoot sect of the mainstream Mormon Church.

Jeffs' motion to remove the judge assigned to hear the sexual assault charges against him was denied Tuesday by a different Texas judge.

He is expected to go on trial to face the bigamy charge at a later date.

The FLDS splintered from the Mormon Church more than a century ago when Mormons renounced the practice of polygamy. Jeffs' church is believed to have about 10,000 followers.

In Session's Beth Karas contributed to this report.