Dateline | September 13, 2013
>> going into trial we prepared ourselves diligently. hours and hours of preparation and anticipating different arguments for the defensive team . but there was no defense team, per se . right before the trial warren jeffs fired all his attorneys, announced he would represent himself. this the opening prophet he delivered a 30-minute speech on religious persecution. and then the prosecution presented its case. all the evidence seize fd in the texas raid. and rebecca musser again dressed in red, tried to make sense of it all for the jury. had to be her. who else? the girls he allegedly rape took the fifth instead of testifying against their husband the prophet ?
>> if there was no victim sitting on the stand to say this man did this to me, and it was my testimony to authenticate the records. the other part of my testimony was to explain to the jury why these young girls were victims being forced to marry, being forced to have sex, that that was normal.
>> and then the prosecution played the audio of warren jeffs and the 12-year-old girl recovered at the ranch. all 20 minutes of it.
>> i'll never forget. i looked over, and i saw the emotional reactions of the jurors, and tears were streaming down some of their face. one lady had tears dripping off her nose.
>> finally it was time for the prophet to deliver his closing argument , his last chance to make a compelling case for himself and his holy ordnances. but --
>> he didn't utter a word. for the entire time. at least 38 minutes and 50 seconds. and at the conclusion of that period of time, he said, i'm at peace.
>> i'm at peace.
>> and i guess that was his argument. but it was -- it was just surreal.
>> what could he say? the evidence spoke for the prophet .
>> he knew about it. he condoned it and enabled it.
>> it took the texas jury barely half an hour to reach a verdict. guilty on all counts.
>> it was like we had a great thousand pound weight taken off our shoulders. our investigation was also on trial the reputation was on trial. the reputation of the of the attorney general office, the reputation of the rangers.
>> somebody finally stood up to this man, and he's sitting in prison now for the rest of the his life.
>> all the children taken from the ranch were given to their families. all but one, the 12-year-old from the audio tape whose mother died after the rape. but leave the church? oh, no. she is a wife of the prophet and she moved back here to the creek, rebecca believes, along with many others from the yfc rampl. nor is this the end of the story. because warren jeffs even in prison is still the prophet , is still in complete control, delivering his edicts to his faithful followers from his prison cell . ever more bizarre, according to lives among them.
>> warren jeffs told the people, don't listen to the rumors. don't listen to the news. they're lying. they're trying to destroy our way of life .
>> and life for warren jeffs ' loyal followers has taken a harsh turn. according to private investigator sam broward. they will do anything he says.
>> leave their families.
>> they'll leave their families. they'll leave their children. they'll turn daughters over. they'll abandon their young men. they'll do literally anything that they're called upon to do.
>> and according to sam broward and others, the prophet 's edicts have become ever more strange and draconian. parents have given ownership to the church of their very own children who are moved around from one caretaker to the next. stranger still? sex between spouses is believed to be banned. instead, jeffs has designated a la handful of his loyalists and only them to impregnate the people of his town.
>> if he can't have sex, nobody can have sex.
>> so they obey that.
>> they obey it.
>> then as we finished our taping and prepared to leave the creek, something quite odd. our cars were surrounded suddenly by a whirly posse who responded to our greetings with blank stares. you want to call the sheriff? no. these are children who had been removed from their parents. just following orders for the church. orders to harass the media and outsiders. but what most worries him and sam , is that warren jeffs , doomed to die in prison, may some day issue the radical proclamation that could be fatal. not just to these kids, but to all of them.
>> before he lifts his reign, he's going to have a grand finale .
>> are you worried about a mass suicide or something like that?
>> something like that. and so i believe the people would do it if he asked them to.
>> and that sounds wildly improbable, they said. it's because you don't know warren jeffs .
>> i think of a marquee or rasputin or jimmy jones . that's exactly what he is. maybe the worst of the lot because he has no boundaries.
>> rebecca musser still has family in short creek. she has returned in hopes of finding them, reconnecting perhaps. it's not likely given their loyalty to the prophet . she's now an evil enemy of the word.
>> does it hurt you knowing many of you feel quite negatively toward you now?
>> i am sad that some of them do. but i can no longer say it's not a glamorous part of freedom. there's costs to that.
>> rebecca eventually married ben, the young man who helped her leave the flds. they had two children together, but are now divorced. the woman once known as sister becky has written a book about her experiences. she called it "the witness wore red." she now helps others by preaching her own gospel.
>> the power of words means breaking your violence. to be silenced is to be enslaved. and there's an amazing thing called choice, and that is freedom.
>> and sometimes when she's playing her violin, one of those classic hymns she learned when practicing the work, she thinks about her days in the flds, thinks about that moment when warren jeffs demanded her obedience, the moment he threatened he would break her.
>> he didn't break you. you broke him.
>> i didn't set out to break him. i think he broke himself. but he most certainly did not break me.3 f1
>> that's all for this edition of "dateline." we'll be back again next friday at 9:00, 8:00 central. and i'll see you tomorrow on "today". i'm lester holt and for all of us at nbc news, good night.