1 Feb 2011

Polygamous sect leader hires then fires lawyer so judge appoints standby counsel and delays start of trial

The Salt Lake Tribune - Utah January 6, 2011

Texas judge appoints counsel for Jeffs, delays trial


A West Texas judge has appointed counsel for polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs and delayed his trial on sexual assault charges.

Jeffs hired and fired prominent Austin-based attorney Gerry Morris in the hours between a morning and afternoon pretrial hearing Wednesday. State prosecutor Eric Nichols said the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was using an apparent "strategy for more time," even though he had refused to sign a waiver that would have allowed prosecutors to delay the start of his first trial.

Nichols proposed that Jeffs’ trial on aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault charges be pushed back until Feb. 21 and that the bigamy case against him remain slated to start March 14. The charges stem from a 2008 raid by Texas authorities on the group’s Yearning for Zion Ranch and relate to alleged spiritual marriages to underage girls.

Fifty-first District Judge Barbara Walther granted Nichols’ motion and appointed San Angelo attorney Fred Brigman to serve as Jeffs’ standby counsel. Another pretrial hearing is set for Jan. 31.

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