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Polygamist who officiated wedding of 12-year-old daughter in Texas to receive parole

First Published      Last Updated Jul 07 2015 02:20 pm


Polygamy » Fredrick Merril Jessop, 79, was convicted of performing a prohibited marriage.

Texas plans to parole the man who officiated the ceremony marrying his 12-year-old daughter to polygamous church leader Warren Jeffs.

Fredrick Merril Jessop, 79, will be transferred to a prison in Huntsville and released in two to three months, said Raymond Estrada, a spokesman for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Once he is released, Jessop may remain on parole until Nov. 4, 2021. Estrada said Jessop may be terminated from parole sooner if he receives credit for the good behavior he displayed in prison and continues it while on parole.

"He's served his required time and kept his nose clean," Estrada said.




Estrada said Jessop has submitted a plan for his life after prison, but that plan will not be made public until Jessop is paroled. No further rationale for Jessop's parole was given.

Jessop was among the polygamous Utah and Arizona men who moved to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ranch in Eldorado, Texas. The property, called the Yearning For Zion Ranch, was the scene of a massive law enforcement and child welfare raid in 2008.

Eleven FLDS men, including Jeffs and Jessop, were convicted of crimes related to bigamy, sexual assault and taking underage brides.

In November 2011, a jury in the town of Robert Lee convicted Jessop of one felony count of conducting a marriage ceremony prohibited by law. The jury also gave Jessop the maximum sentence: 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Evidence presented at trial showed that in July 2006, Jessop performed the ceremony that sealed his 12-year-old daughter and Jeffs in a polygamous, celestial marriage.

Jeffs was convicted in August 2011 in San Angelo, Texas, of aggravated sexual assault of the 12-year-old and of sexual assault against a 15-year-old girl he also married. Warren Jeffs, 59, is serving a life sentence on the former count and 20 years in prison on the latter.

Rebecca Musser, a former FLDS plural wife who testified as an expert witness at the Texas trials, on Tuesday pointed out that Jessop's conviction represents the first time an FLDS man was held accountable for giving his underage daughter as a bride. She called that conviction "progress."

Yet Musser expressed displeasure at Jessop's parole.

"I find it overly convenient that his punishment draws to an end, while the scars he caused his daughter will always remain," Musser wrote in an email to The Tribune.

Jessop had two underage girls, both 16 years old, among his 22 wives, according to Texas court documents. Two of Jessop's sons also were convicted of sexually assaulting underage wives in Texas.

Texas has paroled only one other FLDS man. Wendell Loy Nielsen was in 2012 convicted of three counts of bigamy. He received a 10-year prison sentence, but was paroled in 2013.

Nielsen, believed to be 74 years old, has since returned to Utah. His parole is monitored by Utah officers.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle

 

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