Seth Jeffs is accused of helping his brother avoid arrest. The judge denied claims he is a flight risk.
A federal magistrate judge on Thursday set bail for a man accused of helping his brother, a polygamous religious leader accused of sex with a minor, evade a nationwide manhunt.
Prosecutors argued that Seth Jeffs, brother of Warren Jeffs, was a flight risk because of his ready access to large amounts of cash and his status with tightknit polygamous communities in Mexico and Canada.
Despite concerns that Seth Jeffs might disappear in much the same fashion his brother has, U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer set a $25,000 property bail in the case.
“I truly do not believe the defendant should be penalized or it should work against this defendant that he is a member of a particular religious community,” Shaffer said.
Seth Jeffs belongs to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which broke away from mainstream Mormonism in 1890. Authorities have been searching for Warren Jeffs, the leader of the fundamentalist church, since June.
Last week, Seth Jeffs was pulled over by Pueblo County sheriff’s deputies who found his sport utility vehicle full of letters addressed to Warren Jeffs, tax records for the fugitive, $142,000 in cash and prepaid credit cards and cellphones.
Seth Jeffs told authorities he was a “messenger” and was ferrying material in his Ford Excursion from a church in Utah to another in Texas.
Federal authorities charged Seth Jeffs with concealing a person wanted for arrest.
He also is facing state prostitution charges. Seth Jeffs was traveling with another man who said he was paid $5,000 to provide sexual services to Seth Jeffs.
During the hearing Thursday, prosecutors raised questions of geography to cast doubt on Seth Jeffs’ story, saying the route he was driving was not a straight line between Utah and Texas.
They also said Seth Jeffs gave authorities two different accounts about how he had recently been renting a house in Longmont.
Seth Jeffs is an integral part of the reason that Warren Jeffs has been able to remain at large since June, prosecutors said.
“He is part of the chain that is purposefully trying to conceal Warren Jeffs,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Brimmer.
In arguing that his client should be allowed bail, Edward Pluss, an assistant federal public defender, said Seth Jeffs had significant ties to his home in Hildale, Utah, a polygamous community run by members of Jeffs’ church.
Pluss said his client had “wives,” and then backtracked and said “a wife,” brothers and “many children.”