By Peter Alexander, NBC News correspondent
The irony is impossible to miss. Until he's sentenced on November 20, Warren Jeffs, the convicted leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a polygamous sect, will be behind bars at Purgatory Correctional Facility here in Hurricane, Utah.
In fact, in the mid-1850's, pioneers named this part of southwestern Utah "Purgatory Flats." Not far from the spectacular scenery of Zion National Park, this area is known for its red rock and giant bluffs. Anticipating Jeffs might find sympathetic residents in this part of the country, not far from the isolated towns along the Utah-Arizona border where most of his 7,500 followers live, I was surprised to find so many of those here ecstatic about his conviction. Just 120 miles outside Las Vegas, this is one of the fastest-growing communities in the West. Years ago, settlers here thought these were the Badlands, today, developers and retirees are more likely to view them as the "Good Lands."
Following Tuesday's verdict -- where police spotters and snipers surrounded the courthouse in St. George, Utah -- security remains tight. Before our live reports this morning on TODAY and MSNBC, we contacted the Washington County, Utah Sheriff Kirk Smith for permission to be outside the jail. He agreed, but wanted specific details about where we would be and what time we would be there. "We're still a little on edge," he said, adding that authorities didn't know what to expect from the FLDS.
Although Jeffs could face life in prison, it's unclear how his conviction will affect his standing within the FLDS. To his followers, Jeffs is a living prophet, who speaks directly with God and delivers the word of God. Being behind bars does not change his stature. While Jeffs no longer runs the FLDS' day-to-day operations, it's believed he is trying to continue to lead from behind bars.
One perspective we are unlikely to hear is the reaction from within the sect. Fifteen of Jeff's followers sat stoically in the courtroom during the trial. After the verdict was read, they marched out in silence, showing no emotion and sharing no comments with the gathered media. It's doubtful they will see any of the news coverage either. FLDS members are not allowed to watch television, movies or use the Internet.
Jeffs' legal problems are just beginning. Two similar cases are pending in Arizona. In each one, Jeffs is charged with four identical charges: two counts of sexual conduct with a minor as an accomplice, and two counts of incest as an accomplice.