Eldorado, USA - The ex-president of the Fundamentalist LDS Church has struck a plea deal to bigamy charges on the eve of his trial.
Wendell Nielsen, 71, pleaded no contest to bigamy charges during a court appearance Tuesday, court clerks told Fox 13. He was then sentenced to 10 years probation. The Eldorado Success newspaper reported the polygamist told the judge he intended to move out of Texas and live with his son in Colorado, who is in a monogamous relationship.
Nielsen's case presented a legal challenge, given that the women he was accused of marrying were all adults when the unions took place. Such a case could have made for an appeal on First Amendment grounds for freedom of religion. Appeals brought by convicted polygamists in Utah have raised religious freedom arguments, but have not advanced in the courts because the marriages involved underage girls.
Nielsen was at one time the president of the FLDS Church until his recent excommunication by Warren Jeffs.
Jeffs is currently serving life, plus 20 years, in a Texas prison for child sex assault stemming from marriages to underage girls.