ABC News - Associated Press December 29, 2010
Texas Polygamist Sect Leader Pleads Not Guilty
Texas Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs pleads not guilty to sexual assault, bigamy
By WILL WEISSERT
SAN ANGELO, Texas
Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs remained mute during a Wednesday arraignment on bigamy and child sex abuse charges, forcing the West Texas court to enter not guilty pleas on his behalf.
The 55-year-old ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sat and said nothing as prosecutors read a sexual assault charge accusing him of having sex with a girl younger than 17. He was then ordered to stand as cases accusing him of aggravated sexual assault of a girl younger than 15 and bigamy were read.
District Judge Barbara Walther instructed Jeffs that his silence forced the court to enter not guilty pleas for him.
The charges against Jeffs stem from a 2008 raid of the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, a remote community south of San Angelo. Authorities seized 439 children and placed them in state custody on suspicion that the girls were being sexually abused and the boys were being raised to be sexual predators.
Most of the children were eventually returned to their families, but seven men in the sect who see Jeffs as their spiritual leader were charged and eventually convicted of child sexual assault and abuse.
On Wednesday, Jeffs wore glasses, orange jail pants and a gray sweat shirt and sat by himself at the defense table. He has been unable to hire a Texas attorney in the nearly 30 days since he was extradited from Utah, where he was convicted on accomplice rape charges a ruling that was later overturned.
Jeffs told Walther that he wanted to find his own attorney in Texas, rather than have one appointed by the court. He said he has identified the firm he wants to represent him and that they were still hammering out the details.
"I haven't made a final contact that they (the law firm) agreed to represent me," Jeffs told Walther when pressed on whether he would have representation by his next scheduled court appearance on Jan. 5. "It's beyond my control."
In the meantime, prosecutors have been speaking to Richard Wright, a prominent Las Vegas attorney who represented Jeffs in Utah and Arizona but is not licensed to practice in Texas.
Wright sat in the courtroom gallery Wednesday, after his petition for temporary admission to the Texas bar was turned down.
Jeffs is being held without bond and is scheduled to stand trial for aggravated sexual assault Jan. 24. He says it has been difficult for him to find a Texas attorney with the start of that trial looming.
Prosecutors plan to try Jeffs on each charge separately. His trial for sexual assault is set to begin Feb. 21 and his trial for bigamy is scheduled for March 14.
Jeffs was extradited to Texas Nov. 30 but had been jailed in Utah, where the state Supreme Court overturned his 2007 conviction on accomplice rape charges, citing improper jury instructions.
On Dec. 20, the Utah Supreme Court denied a petition from that state's attorney general seeking a rehearing of an appeal from Jeffs, asking the justices to better clarify how the jury instructions should have been drafted.
This article was found at:
Utah Supreme Court denies rehearing of conviction reversal in polygamous sect leader's accomplice to rape case
Polygamist leader failed to delay Texas trial set to start January 2011, supporter says God approves of child brides
Texas juries have convicted 5 Mormon fundamentalists from cult compound, 2 others pled guilty, leader Jeffs next to be tried
Mormon polygamist cult leader Jeffs extradited to Texas to face charges related to child 'brides' and bigamy
Utah Court allows extradition of Mormon fundamentalist leader Jeffs to Texas to face child 'bride' sex abuse charges
Utah Court of Appeals suspends extradition of Mormon fundamentalist leader to Texas while it considers legal issues
Mormon polygamist cult leader's lawyer says Utah and Texas conspiring through extradition to deny his constitutional rights
Mormon polygamist sect leader still fighting extradition to Texas where prosecutors have more evidence against him
Jon Krakauer's reaction to court's reversal of Mormon polygamist's rape convictions
Utah Supreme Court decides to not protect FLDS girls from forced marriage, overturns Warren Jeffs' accomplice to rape convictions
Child 'bride' key witness against Warren Jeffs stunned by court's reversal of rape convictions, fears for safety of FLDS children
Mormon polygamist leader jailed in Utah refuses to sign warrant extraditing him to Texas to face child sex charges
Extradition process started to bring jailed Mormon polygamist leader to Texas for trial after Arizona drops cases against him
Trial begins for brother of jailed Mormon polygamist sect leader, state seeks enhanced penalty for sex assault of child
Mormon polygamist accused of sexual assault wants evidence of polygamy and fraud excluded from trial
Evidence seized during raid on Texas polygamist ranch can be used in sexual assault trials
FLDS polygamist sentenced to 10 years for sexual assault of minor in forced 'marriage'
Mormon polygamist gets 33 years for child sexual assault, defense relied on ridiculous religious freedom argument
Second Mormon polygamist found guilty of child sex assault, jury doesn't buy defense claim of religious persecution
Third Texas polygamist jailed for sex assault, but FLDS spokesman says no contest plea was merely a legal tactic
Fourth Mormon polygamist from Texas compound guilty of bigamy and sex assault of child 'bride', jailed 75 years
First legal finding that bigamy occurred at Mormon fundamentalist compound sees two more polygamists sent to prison
Warren Jeffs' FLDS Church and What I Left Behind
Jeffs's wedding pictures disgust
Texas seeks custody of teen Jeffs allegedly wed
Jeffs' role: Coercion, devotion?
Jurors: Girl’s age was crucial to decision in Warren Jeffs trial
About time, ex-Bountiful member says about Warren Jeffs conviction
Jeffs verdict irrelevant to followers, polygamist community
Sect papers reveal Jeffs total control of followers, even from jail
Religious Beliefs Should Not Protect Polygamist Warren Jeffs
Warren Jeffs Still Dominant Force Even After Conviction
Polygamist leader Jeffs still a force from jail
JEFFS BOMBSHELL: Says he was "immoral" with sister, daughter in jailhouse tapes
Listening to the Lord: Jeffs exerted 24-7 control over FLDS faithful
When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Women Who Fought Back
New Book on Warren Jeffs' Polygamy Sect Provides Insight into Lives of Women Enslaved by Fundamentalist Group
Texas polygamist trial set to start, advocate says women nothing but pimps giving their daughters to perverts
Texas doctor protesting conviction of FLDS polygamist for sexual assault says law should allow sex with minors
Hate mail from Mormon polygamists doesn't faze Texas lawmaker who crafted laws to protect girls from religious abuse