Judge unseals tape of Utah polygamist

SALT LAKE CITY — Sitting in jail awaiting trial, the leader of a polygamous sect renounced his role as a prophet and said he had been “immoral” with a sister and daughter decades ago, newly unsealed documents show.

Warren Jeffs’ attorneys included those statements in documents they filed in July as they sought to keep jail recordings out of his September trial in the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old to her 19-year-old cousin.

Fifth District Judge James Shumate agreed that the recordings could bias jurors against Jeffs and ordered the documents sealed. He unsealed them Tuesday.

Jeffs, 51, was convicted on two counts of rape as an accomplice. He is to be sentenced Nov. 20 and could get up to life in prison.

In telephone calls Jan. 24, Jeffs told family that he “had been immoral with a sister and a daughter” when he was 20, according to the documents. He goes on to renounce his role as the church prophet and says the Lord had “revealed to him that he was a wicked man.”

It is not clear who Jeffs is speaking about, and Jeffs does not elaborate on the conduct. Some listeners responded by telling Jeffs he is the prophet and was being tested, according to the documents.

On Jan. 25, Jeffs again renounced his position as head of the church. His brother tried to encourage him and said he should see a doctor.

Jeffs was taken to a hospital three days later and was given medication for depression. Court documents say he lost 30 pounds, was dehydrated and suffering from sleep deprivation.

In February, when his health had improved, he abandoned his statements about not being a prophet and said he had “experienced a great spiritual test,” according to the documents.

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