5 Jan 2011

Mormon polygamist cult leader's lawyer says Utah and Texas conspiring through extradition to deny his constitutional rights

CNN - October 18, 2010

Defense asks court to delay Utah polygamist's extradition to Texas

By Ashley Hayes, CNN

Attorneys for Utah polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs are asking a court to delay his extradition to Texas, where he faces charges including aggravated sexual assault of a child, until Utah authorities decide whether to retry him.

"Mr. Jeffs, although presumed innocent, has now been incarcerated for more than four years on charges that, given the [Utah] supreme court's opinion clarifying the law in Utah, will be difficult if not impossible for the state to sustain," defense attorneys wrote in the motion filed in Utah's Third District Court this month.

"The state is punting, using the [Uniform Criminal Extradition Act] as an offensive line to protect its weakened prosecution, buying time until it can figure out what to do next in its now frantic effort to defeat Mr. Jeffs and the unpopular religion he represents," the motion said.

The Utah Supreme Court in July overturned Jeffs' conviction on two counts of being an accomplice to rape, saying that instructions given to jurors were erroneous. Jeffs was accused of using his religious influence over his followers to coerce a 14-year-old girl into marrying her 19-year-old cousin. He was sentenced to two consecutive prison terms of five years to life.

The defense argues that the Interstate Agreement on Detainers -- a federal law under which a state can obtain custody of a person even if the person is already incarcerated in another state -- no longer applies to Jeffs, as his status changed with the Utah Supreme Court's ruling. Jeffs is now presumed innocent of all charges against him, defense attorneys claim, and extraditing him to Texas would violate his constitutional rights.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed an extradition warrant in August at the urging of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. In Texas, Jeffs faces a felony charge of sexual assault of a child, as well as charges of sexual assault and bigamy, according to the warrant. If convicted, he could face a sentence of five to 99 years or life in prison.

The defense filing asks the court to quash the warrant signed by Herbert, saying the two states have "shrouded their ungodly alliance in the semantics of extradition law," and to delay Jeffs' extradition to Texas "until after all pending prosecution in Utah is resolved."

Last month, Jeffs' attorneys objected to his signing an extradition waiver in a Utah court. He is to remain jailed for at least two more months and will appear in court again November 15 for a hearing.

The state's response to the motion is due Friday, said Nancy Volmer, spokeswoman for Utah state courts. The defense then has a week to reply to the state's response.

In June, an Arizona judge dismissed charges against Jeffs after the Mohave County prosecutor requested it, citing "much more serious charges" against him in Texas. Jeffs had been awaiting trial in Arizona on four counts of being an accomplice to sexual conduct with a minor.

Jeffs is the leader or "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The sect first drew national attention after Jeffs was arrested during a routine traffic stop in August 2006. At the time, he was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List.

The FLDS is a 10,000-member offshoot of the mainstream Mormon church FLDS members openly practice polygamy at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, and in two towns straddling the Utah-Arizona state line: Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. The mainstream Mormon church renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

Critics of the sect say young girls are forced into "spiritual" marriages with older men and are sexually abused. Sect members have denied that any sexual abuse takes place.

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The Salt Lake Tribune - October 19, 2010

Jeffs alleges ‘conspiracy’ in Texas extradition move

By Stephen Hunt, Salt Lake Tribune

Efforts to extradite polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs from Utah to face felony charges in Texas are the result of an “ungodly alliance” between the two states that tramples Jeffs’ constitutional right to a speedy trial, according to documents filed recently in 3rd District Court by Jeff’s defense team.

The governor of Texas signed extradition papers just two days after the Utah Supreme Court in July overturned Jeffs’ 2007 conviction on two counts of first–degree felony rape as an accomplice, granting him a new trial.

The high court found “serious errors” in instructions given to the jury during Jeffs’ trial. Washington County jurors convicted Jeffs, now 54, of performing a marriage in 2001 between Allen Glade Steed, then 19, and Elissa Wall, then 14.

Jeffs is the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has about 10,000 members, mostly in Utah, Arizona, Texas and British Columbia, Canada. Wall testified during Jeffs’ trial that she objected to the union and, initially, to having sex with her husband, but Jeffs ignored her requests to be let out of the marriage.

Defense attorneys Walter Bugden Jr. and Tara Isaacson say Jeffs wants his new trial as soon as possible. Otherwise, Utah authorities should dismiss the charges, the defense says.

If Jeffs is sent to Texas — where he is charged with bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault for his alleged spiritual marriages to two underage girls — it could be years before he is returned to Utah.

“Rather than finish the fight, Utah wants to call time-out so it can lick its wounds and regroup,” according to defense documents, which allege a “conspiracy” between Utah and Texas.

“It costs Utah a lot of money to keep Mr. Jeffs in prison, and it would cost Utah a lot of money to attempt to retry him,” the defense writes. “It would be easier and more cost-effective for Utah to pawn him off to Texas.”

The defense notes that the case already involves testimony and evidence from years ago. Further delay will mean witnesses will be difficult to relocate, and their memories, documents and other evidence may be lost, the defense asserts.

The defense claims one of the “greatest prejudices” of further delay stems from recent allegations that a midwife lied during Jeffs’ trial when she said she possessed original medical records regarding Wall’s 2002 miscarriage. But prosecutors say the records may have been re-created, and it is possible that Wall, either wittingly or unwittingly, helped the midwife reconstruct the records. A spokesman for the Utah Attorney General’s Office said Monday the investigation is continuing.

If Jeffs is convicted in Texas, Utah can “quietly dismiss its case against him here, sweeping under the rug the glaring problems with its prosecution,” the defense asserts.“Utah saves face. Texas saves the day,” the defense writes. “There are politics at play here; only the blind can’t see it. And the game is being played at the expense of Mr. Jeffs’ constitutional rights.”

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The Salt Lake Tribune - October 22, 2010

Utah prosecutors say Jeffs should be sent to Texas

By Stephen Hunt

Utah prosecutors said Friday that polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs’ claims of a government conspiracy to ship him to Texas for trial “are not facts and have no relevance” to extradition efforts.

Earlier this month, Jeffs’ attorneys filed documents in 3rd District Court claiming an “ungodly alliance” between the governors of Utah and Texas aimed at sending him to stand trial in The Lone Star State.

But Assistant Utah Attorney General Craig Barlow wrote in his response that there is a narrow scope for challenging extradition proceedings.

Once a governor has granted extradition, a court is limited to determining whether the extradition documents are in order, and whether the petitioner is the person named in the documents, has been charged with a crime in the demanding state and is a fugitive.

Barlow said that Jeffs appears to be challenging only whether the documents are in order but has presented no evidence that they are not properly filed.

Barlow claims that according to statute, Gov. Gary Herbert has the discretion to surrender Jeffs to Texas now or wait until he has been retried in Utah.

“No authority exists ... for a court to interfere with the governor’s discretion to grant a valid extradition request,” Barlow wrote.

A hearing on the issue is set for Nov. 15 before Judge Terry Christiansen in West Jordan.

In 2007, Jeffs, prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was convicted in Utah of two counts of first–degree felony rape as an accomplice.

Washington County jurors found Jeffs, now 54, guilty of performing a marriage in 2001 between Allen Glade Steed, then 19, and Elissa Wall, then 14.

Wall testified during Jeffs’ trial that she objected to the union and, initially, to having sex with her husband, but Jeffs ignored her requests to be let out of the marriage.

In July, the Utah Supreme Court overturned the rape convictions, finding there were “serious errors” in instructions given to the jury.

Two days after the high court granted Jeffs a new trial, the governor of Texas signed extradition papers seeking to bring Jeffs there.

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