BIG LAKE, Texas — Extradited to Texas two years after being indicted, polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs will be facing Texas prosecutors who haven’t lost a criminal case against his followers since the 2008 raid of his Yearning for Zion ranch.
In the rural courts near the YFZ ranch where Jeffs is considered a prophet, his followers have been reliably convicted by juries that barely deliberate two hours.
Jeffs, the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was quietly extradited to Texas this week from Utah.
He remained jailed Thursday, charged with felony bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and assault.
The 2008 raid swept more than 400 children into protective custody, and left a dozen men in the church facing charges that include sexual assault and bigamy.
Seven of Jeffs’ followers have been prosecuted since last year, and all were convicted. Only in one case have jurors deliberated more than two hours. The sentences have ranged from six to 75 years.
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“The evidence has been clear and convincing to juries,” said Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the Texas Attorney General’s office that is prosecuting the cases against FLDS members.
Now it will be Jeffs’ turn. He is scheduled for trial Jan. 24 on the aggravated sexual assault charge. Prosecutors plan to try him separately on the other charges.
Strickland said prosecutors don’t see Jeffs as the marquee defendant in their case.
“Our interest in Warren Jeffs focuses on the crimes he’s accused of committing, and we’ll treat his cases just as we’ve treated the other defendants,” Strickland said.
Arizona sheriff says Jeffs was highest-maintenance prisoner
KINGMAN, Ariz. — Texas can expect numerous challenges and a drain of taxpayer funded resources associated with the incarceration and prosecution of polygamous church sect prophet Warren Jeffs, 55.
That’s what officials in northwest Arizona indicate after holding Jeffs in the Mohave County jail in downtown Kingman for nearly 27 months.
Jeffs was extradited to Texas from Utah Tuesday and is housed in the county jail at Big Lake. He was arraigned Wednesday and has a pretrial hearing scheduled Dec. 8.
“He was very costly to incarcerate and house,” said Mohave County, Ariz., Sheriff Tom Sheahan. “He went on these self-imposed hunger strikes, which forced us to force feed him through tubes. It was a big drain on our staff, a big drain on our medical provider, and he was just a problem inmate from day one.”
Inside the jail, Jeffs required isolation, both for medical monitoring and for his own protection.
“We had to keep him segregated from the inmate population because there’s certain members inside our general population that would not have allowed him to exist in safety very long,” Brown said.
Prayer binges and fasting also made Jeffs a high maintenance inmate.
“He was one of the most manpower intensive inmates we ever had,” said Sheahan.