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Page last updated at 11:48 GMT, Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Jury chosen for US polygamy trial

Raymond Jessop
Raymond Jessop is the first person to face trial relating to last year's raid

The sexual assault trial of a member of a US polygamy sect is to continue with a second day of jury selection at a Texas court.

Raymond Jessop, 38, faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of the charge related to his alleged marriage to an under-age girl.

It is the first criminal case stemming from a raid on the sect's ranch last year.

About 150 people, including members of the sect, were eligible for jury duty.

The Yearning For Zion Ranch was raided in April, and hundreds of children removed after one girl complained of abuse.

A total of 12 members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have been charged with crimes ranging from failure to report child abuse to sexual assault and bigamy.

Court documents stated that Mr Jessop's alleged wife gave birth to a daughter at the ranch when she was 16.

Potential jurors queue outside the Texas courtroom
Sect members, in distinctive clothing, were among potential jurors

Prosecutors allege he has nine wives. His bigamy trial will be held later.

The sexual assault trial was expected to last two weeks, assistant Attorney General Eric Nichols was quoted by Associated Press as saying.

Two of Mr Jessop's alleged under-age wives, as well as former sect members, are due to give evidence for the prosecution.

In April 2008, US officials removed 416 children from the sect's ranch after receiving a report of sexual abuse.

A Texas court later overturned the decision to remove the children.

It said the state had overstepped its authority because of the lack of evidence about widespread sexual abuse.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a breakaway sect of Mormonism that supports polygamy.

Their leader, Warren Jeffs, has already been imprisoned in Arizona for conspiracy to rape. He faces more charges in Texas.

The 10,000-strong sect, which dominates the towns of Colorado City in Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, split from the mainstream Mormon church more than a century ago.



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SEE ALSO
Texas sect girls 'mostly mothers'
29 Apr 08 |  Americas
Texas removes polygamy sect girls
05 Apr 08 |  Americas
More raids on Texas polygamy sect
06 Apr 08 |  Americas
Polygamist leader 'seriously ill'
09 Jul 08 |  Americas
US polygamy sect leader sentenced
20 Nov 07 |  Americas



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