Official: Polygamist Guilty of Sexual Assault

Staff Report
The Associated Press

SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - The Texas Attorney General's Office says a member of a polygamist group has been convicted of sexual assault of an alleged underage bride.

Attorney general spokesman Jerry Strickland says Merril Leroy Jessop was found guilty Wednesday of sexual assault of a child by a jury in the West Texas city of San Angelo.

The 35-year-old Jessop was the fourth member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to be tried for sexual assault of a child since Texas authorities raided the group's ranch near Eldorado two years ago.

Jessop faces up to life in prison. Strickland says the sentencing phase of his trial was to begin Wednesday afternoon.

Strickland says the jury also found that Jessop violated Texas laws prohibiting bigamy.

Prosecutors alleged that Jessop attempted to delete photos and other documents connecting him to the alleged underage bride.