Former FLDS Leader on Trial in Midland for Bigamy Charges - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Former FLDS Leader on Trial in Midland for Bigamy Charges

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By Jen Kastner
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND- Opening arguments began Thursday in the bigamy trial of Wendell Nielsen. He's the former lieutenant to polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs. 

Nielsen is accused of three counts of bigamy. Each count is punishable by anywhere between two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Nielsen has reportedly been married a total of 35 times. He is the 11th member of the FLDS to go on trial, but the first one to solely face counts of bigamy. The others have faced counts of child sexual assault.

On Thursday, the prosecution gave jurors a virtual tour of the Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado, which is the compound that was raided back in 2008 due to allegations that bigamy and sexual assault were taking place on site. Then, much of the day was spent questioning the law enforcement officers that searched the facilities and gathered evidence on the ranch.

At least two of Nielsen's sons were in the courtroom to support their father. The trial continues Friday with witnesses responsible for gathering evidence from the temple annex where the religious documentation was kept, such as marriage certificates.