Polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs — moved early this morning from Utah to Arizona — will appear before a Mohave County judge Wednesday morning on charges related to marriages involving teenage girls.
Mohave County officials plan to hold a press conference this afternoon about Jeffs’ arrival and court proceedings, according to Trish Carter, spokeswoman for Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan.
Jeffs, 52, will make an initial appearance before Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven F. Conn at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday.
Michael Piccarreta, a Tucson defense attorney who is representing Jeffs, has asked that Jeffs be allowed to appear in court wearing street clothes rather than a jail jumpsuit, as he did in Utah.
Piccarreta also plans to ask that the trial be moved out of Mohave County because of “massive amounts of unfavorable media coverage” of the Jeffs case.
Judge Conn already has ordered that no photography will be allowed inside the courtroom during Jeffs’ proceedings. Arizona does allow audio recording during court hearings; Conn has not banned use of audio equipment.
Piccarreta will be assisted by Richard Wright, a high-profile Las Vegas, Nev., attorney who also helped represent Jeffs in Utah.
He began serving his sentence at the Utah State Prison in Draper in November. He had been housed on the maximum security unit, but on Feb. 19 was moved to the prison’s infirmary after he began a fast.
Two Mohave County grand juries indicted Jeffs in 2005 and 2007 on charges related to underage marriages.
Jeffs is named in five different cases in Arizona on charges of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. The offenses are class 6 felonies, punishable by four months to two years in prison or probation. He also is charged with incest as an accomplice, a class 4 felony.
One of the cases involves Elissa Wall, the star witness in the Utah case against Jeffs. The victim in another case, filed last June, has not been publicly named.
In three of the five cases, Mohave County pursued charges against the men to whom Jeffs married the underage girls. But it was unable, for various reasons, to prosecute the men.
Those men were Randy Barlow, Rodney Holm and Terry Darger Barlow. Prosecutors dropped the charges against Terry Barlow after he proved his marriage took place in Canada. They dropped the case against Randy Barlow after former plural wife Candi Shapley refused to testify against him.
And Mohave County dropped the Holm case after his former plural wife and her brother tried to get money from an FLDS member in exchange for refusing to testify in court.
Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith has not dropped the charges against Jeffs related to these cases, however.
Jeffs has led the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints since 2002, when he succeeded his father. The sect is based primarily in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., but has outposts in Texas, Colorado, South Dakota, British Columbia and other locales.
Feb. 26, 2008