Jail time for polygamous sect member in abuse case

AP News
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Posted: Oct 01, 2014 5:16 PM

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — A member of Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect who oversaw an Idaho home where nine boys were sent on "repentance missions" by their parents has been given jail time on child abuse charges that included locking one teen in a furnace room for two days.

Nathan C. Jessop, 49, was sentenced to 90 days in jail Tuesday after previously pleading guilty to three counts of misdemeanor injury to a child. Another 360 days in jail were suspended, KPVI-TV reported (http://bit.ly/YMOf3w ).

Jessop belongs to Warren Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, whose members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. He is the son of high-ranking FLDS member Merril Jessop, who is serving 10 years in a Texas prison for presiding over the marriage of his then-12-year-old daughter to Jeffs.

Nathan Jessop told police the boys, ages 12 to 17, also were church members and were sent to him by their parents because they were disobedient. He acknowledged physically disciplining them, saying the boys were hard to handle and not well-behaved.

Nathan Jessop acknowledged in court that he locked one of the boys in the furnace room. Prosecutors also said he failed to report that two other boys ran away. The nine boys were removed from the Pocatello home in July after a boy who escaped reported the abuse.

Bannock County Prosecutor Stephen Herzog said the case wasn't about religion. Eastern Idaho has a large Mormon population.

"What we are talking about is just an individual and what our basic assumptions are about how we treat kids and how we protect their health and safety, and I think that's really what the case was all about," he said.

Two of the boys are with foster families. The others returned to family members who belong to the FLDS church, which is based on the Utah-Arizona border.

"Nathan Jessop is a good man, and he is a good person in a bad circumstance, and there are always two sides to every story, and I believe that he is a very good person and he has taken full responsibility for what he did," said his attorney Ron Tyler Bird.

Nathan Jessop's wife Tammy Jessop lived in the house too. She told police she was in charge of preparing meals and being the boys' homeschool teacher. She also taught them to make furniture that was sold in Idaho and Utah.

The boys told police they wouldn't get a breakfast if they didn't wake up by 6 a.m. and that the pantries were locked so they wouldn't eat between meals. They said they sneaked out to get fast food using money they earned doing odd jobs. They got no money from the furniture sales, the report said.

Neighbors Stephen and Roma Hurley said the boys would do odd jobs for them, such as mowing their lawn, to make money. They said they didn't know much about Nathan Jessop.

"I just never saw the man," Roma Hurley said. "I think he was extremely secretive."

Jeffs is in a Texas prison, where he is a serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides. He still reportedly gives orders from there.

Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream Mormon church and its 15 million members worldwide abandoned the practice in 1890 and strictly prohibit it.

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Information from: KPVI-TV, http://www.kpvi.com/