Utah high court: Polygamist leader can go to Texas

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court said Tuesday it won’t block polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffsextradition to Texas for trial on bigamy and sexual assault charges.

The court denied Jeffs’ appeal and lifted a stay a lower court had imposed last week keeping him in Utah.

Jeffs, 54, is the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Southern Utah-based church practices polygamy in arranged marriages that have involved underage girls.

In court papers, defense attorneys argued that sending Jeffs to Texas before a long-running criminal case in Utah is resolved denies him the right to a speedy trial.

Jeffs’ lawyers also objected to the conditions of an extradition agreement signed by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Texas Gov. Rick Perry that would deny Jeffs bail in Texas.

The Utah attorney general’s office contended that Jeffs had no legal grounds to argue against extradition.
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- Source / Full Story: Utah high court: Polygamist leader can go to Texas, Brock Vergakis, Associated Press via the Washington Post, Nov. 23, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Utah Supreme Court: Jeffs to be extradited

With a blizzard hammering Utah on Tuesday evening, Jeffs will not likely be moved until after the Thanksgiving holiday, said Utah Assistant Attorney General Craig Barlow.
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The court didn’t release its reasoning behind the decision, but earlier this month, 3rd District Judge Terry Christiansen sided with the state, ruling that only the governor, not the courts, can approve or deny an extradition unless there are serious due-process issues.
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Though authorities have a plane ready to take Jeffs to Texas, prosecutors there aren’t planning to “whisk Mr. Jeffs away under cover of darkness,” [Utah Assistant Attorney General Craig] Barlow said. “My impression was they did not plan to take any kind of extraordinary measures to come to Utah and take him into custody forthwith.”

Jeffs has been imprisoned for more than four years following his arrest on accomplice-to-rape charges related to his presiding over a marriage between an unwilling 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.

Two days after the Utah Supreme Court overturned his conviction, citing faulty jury instructions, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed extradition documents. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert approved them.

The Texas charges of aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and bigamy were filed in 2008 after authorities raided the sect’s Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado.

They relate to an alleged spiritual marriage between Jeffs and a 12-year-old girl, and a baby that Jeffs allegedly fathered with another underage girl.

If convicted on the single most serious of those charges, he faces up to 99 years in prison.
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- Source / Full Story: Utah Supreme Court: Jeffs to be extradited , Lindsay Whitehurts, The Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 23, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

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