Ex-FLDS member: Warren Jeffs "partially crazy"

The trial of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs has taken another strange turn. Jeffs stunned the courtroom by abruptly breaking his silence Friday.

After sitting silently during his sexual assault trial, CBS News Correspondent Hattie Kauffman reported, Jeffs suddenly sprang out of his seat Friday to make an objection - an objection that went on for 50 minutes and ended with a threat.

On "The Early Show," Elissa Wall, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Jeffs' compound, said she's not surprised by Jeffs' outburst.

Wall said, "I couldn't expect anything less from such an irrational, honestly, partially crazy leader as I knew him."

Wall managed to escape Jeffs' compound. She wrote a book called "Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs."

Friday's outburst came just one day after he fired his legal team, choosing to go it alone. Jeffs has dismissed seven attorneys since December.

Emily Munoz Detoto, one of Jeffs' former attorneys, told CBS News, "One might view this as him saying that 'This is my battle and I want to represent myself.' No one else could understand his religion, but as far as his reasoning, we can't speak to that."

Seven other sect leaders have already been convicted. If Jeffs is found guilty, he faces life in prison.

Wall said Jeffs' firing of his defense team is also unsurprising considering his narcissism.

She said, "He really does believe he is God, and I really do think that he believes that he is better than everyone else. And even in his statements to the judge about him wanting to have a pure defense I don't know if he thinks he did anything wrong. Therefore he just wants to defend his religion and status as the god-like figure of the religion."

When asked what kind of man and religious figure Jeffs is, Wall responded, "I was exposed to him my entire life and he really did display a lot of narcissistic behavior. People have to understand, he was groomed at such a tender age to become the leader and to become the god-like figure within this closed community. So he really did grow up with a lot of idealistic beliefs about himself and about his power over the community. As far as how he treated the people, we all feared him greatly and he demanded very much complete obedience and absolute respect."

Laurie Levenson, professor at the Loyola Law School, said of Jeffs' outburst in court, "No longer is it really a trial. He just wanted an occasion to give a sermon."

Shouting, Jeffs accused the court of violating "sacred ground," saying "the religious persecution must cease," and warning that God would bring "sickness and death" unless the trial was stopped.

Jeffs stood trial in 2007 as an accomplice to rape. His conviction was later overturned by the Utah Supreme Court because of faulty jury instruction.

Then in 2008, FBI agents raided the compound of the break-away Mormon sect led by Jeffs after allegations that children were being forced to marry.

Texas is now trying Jeffs for two counts of sexual assault of a child. Prosecutors claim they will play audio tapes of him raping a 12-year-old girl.

Levenson told CBS News, "Religion is not on trial here. You can have a religion but that doesn't entitle you to rape a 12- or 13-year-old. So the prosecutors want to keep the focus on that crime."

When asked about life for the girls on Jeffs' compound, Wall said they're treated like they don't have an identity from birth.

"People have to really understand how these women are raised," she said. "... They really are just property to the community, and especially the men, and they're all about serving the men and fulfilling the men's life, and these women grow up with no rights really and no knowledge of what they should have as far as being a woman, having the rights of what we have here in America."

Wall said she hopes the trial will reveal the truth of life within the FLDS community and Jeffs' influence.

"(I hope they see the) truth about what Warren has done and what he is capable of. And really I hope that at the end of the day that we can make an impact, that we can change the reality for the people within the closed communities," she said. "The FLDS is one of many of religious sects that live like this."


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