18 Dec 2010

Utah sending Mormon polygamist leader to Texas to face bigamy, child sex assault charges

Google News - Associated Press August 11, 2010

UT governor signs warrant sending Jeffs to Texas

SALT LAKE CITY — Polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs won't face a retrial in his Utah accomplice rape case until his criminal charges in Texas are resolved, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Wednesday.

The Utah Supreme Court last month overturned Jeffs' 2007 convictions on accomplice rape charges. The court said faulty jury instructions denied Jeffs a fair trial, and the justices sent the case back for retrial.

After talking with Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap and Texas authorities, Shurtleff said all sides agreed to let Texas step in.

"The plan is we all want him tried there first," Shurtleff told The Associated Press. "Then if it looks like we need to try him up here, we'll bring him back."

Jeffs, 54, is the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints, a southern Utah-based church that practices polygamy in marriages arranged by church leaders. Historically, some marriages have involved underage girls, although church leaders say the practice has stopped.

Texas authorities have charged Jeffs with bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and assault based on alleged incidents with underage girls at a church ranch near Eldorado, Texas. The information that led to the charges was gleaned from church and family records seized during a raid on the Yearning for Zion ranch in 2008.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry sent Herbert a letter July 29 demanding that Jeffs be arrested and turned over to Texas authorities.

Jeffs' Utah attorneys, Walter Bugden and Tara Isaacson, have said they would fight extradition. In June, Jeffs refused to sign a warrant for his extradition brought to him at the Utah State Prison, where he remained Wednesday.

"He can still fight it, but it's pretty much a done deal," Shurtleff said.

Shurtleff said he believes Texas authorities have strong cases and a good likelihood of success because Jeffs is directly accused in the crimes.

In Utah, Jeffs was charged as an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin.

Jeffs performed the couple's religious marriage ceremony and later counseled the young bride to give herself "mind, body and soul" to her husband to try and make an unhappy marriage work.

During the trial, the bride, now an adult, said she objected to the marriage and was forced into sexual relations with her husband.

A jury convicted Jeffs on both counts and a 5th District Judge sentenced him to consecutive terms of five years to life in prison.

In its reversal of the convictions, Utah's Supreme Court was critical of how state prosecutors applied accomplice liability law and said Jeffs' actions could not be equated with those of the woman's husband.

Shurtleff said his office plans to ask justices to rehear the appeal of the case.

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Deseret News - Utah August 10, 2010

Attorney general seeks rehearing in Warren Jeffs case

by Aaron Falk

SALT LAKE CITY — In the wake of the Utah Supreme Court's decision last month to toss a pair of rape convictions against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, the Utah Attorney General's Office is seeking a rehearing before the high court.

Prosecutors were granted a two-week extension to file a petition for a rehearing, a court official said Tuesday. The petition is due Aug. 23.

Scott Troxel, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, said his office would not comment on the cause "until the petition is filed."

Late last month, the Utah Supreme Court reversed Jeffs' 2007 conviction of rape as an accomplice for his role in the "spiritual" wedding of a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin.

In ordering a new trial, the court cited an erroneous jury instruction that focused too heavily on Jeffs' relationship with the girl.

At the time, Shurtleff said his office would not seek a rehearing before the Supreme Court and said it would be difficult to retry the case given the court's interpretation of the law.

Jeffs is currently being held in the Utah State Prison's Olympus facility, the prison's mental health unit, said Department of Corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke.

When or where Jeffs could be moved from the Draper site was unknown.

If prosecutors decide to retry the case, Jeffs could be moved to the Washington County Jail. Texas officials, meanwhile, are working to bring Jeffs to their state to face charges of bigamy and sexual abuse.

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