HOUSTON — Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs, who said he had been fasting since he was sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting underage girls, has been sedated and is responsive Tuesday, a Texas prison official said.
"He is expected to make a full recovery," Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said.
Lyons said the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leader remained in critical but stable condition at East Texas Medical Center in Tyler.
On Sunday, Jeffs was taken to the hospital from an East Texas prison about 45 miles away because he was feeling unwell.
Lyons said Monday that Jeffs told corrections officers he had been fasting since his conviction earlier this month, though it was not immediately clear how long he'd gone without food before being hospitalized.
An official familiar with Jeffs' condition but not authorized to discuss it publicly said Monday that Jeffs was in a medically induced coma.
On Tuesday, Lyons disagreed with that description of his condition, but said federal regulations covering the release of medical information prohibited her from disclosing more.
"He is responsive at this time," she said.
Jeffs was convicted this month after prosecutors used DNA evidence to show he fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl — one of 24 underage girls whom prosecutors say he took as his spiritual wives.
He received a life sentence, plus another 20-year term, and isn't eligible for parole until he is at least 100 years old. He had been in a Huntsville prison immediately after his trial, then was moved last week to the Powledge Unit outside Palestine, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas.
This isn't the first time Jeffs has required hospitalization in the years since he first was locked up.
He tried to hang himself in January 2007 while awaiting trial on rape charges in Washington County, Utah, according to court documents. He also threw himself against the walls of his cell and banged his head, although he later told a mental health expert he really wasn't trying to kill himself. In the same time period, he was hospitalized for dehydration and depression.
In 2009, he was temporarily force-fed while in an Arizona jail.
Former church members have said Jeffs likely would continue to lead his Utah-based church from inside prison and that his followers likely still revere him as a prophet despite the considerable evidence at his trial showing he sexually assaulted girls as young as 12. Prosecutors played an audio recording at his trial of what they said was him sexually assaulting a 12-year-old.
The basic principles of Jeffs' fundamentalist sect are rooted in polygamy, a legacy of early Mormon church teachings that held plural marriage brought exaltation in heaven. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the mainstream Mormon church, abandoned the practice in 1890 as a condition of Utah's statehood and excommunicates members who engage in the practice.