Polygamist leader in courtroom; preliminary hearing set in November
ST. GEORGE – The state’s key witness in the case against polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs will testify in court for the first time during a day-long hearing set for mid-November.
At the Nov. 21 preliminary hearing, the young woman identified only as Jane Doe No. 4 is expected to describe her assigned marriage to an older man she alleges later raped her, as well as Jeffs’ alleged instructions that she submit “mind, body and soul” to her husband.
Based on that and other evidence offered by the state, 5th District Judge James L. Shumate will decide whether there is enough evidence to believe Jeffs committed a crime and should be tried.
The woman, who was between 14 and 18 at the time of her spiritual marriage, is looking forward to her day in court, according to Brian Filter, spokesman for the Washington County Attorney’s Office.
He also said other witnesses and evidence will be presented.
Jeffs uttered a single word Wednesday during a six-minute scheduling hearing attended by a few supporters and curious onlookers. He has previously appeared via videolink from the Purgatory Correctional Facility, where he has been incarcerated since Sept. 5.
Unshackled and wearing a suit, white dress shirt and white tie – and a bullet-proof vest beneath his clothes – Jeffs was brought into the courtroom from a rear hallway.
He warmly shook hands with his legal team, quietly exchanging greetings with Las Vegas attorney Richard A. Wright and the Salt Lake attorneys Walter F. Bugden and Tara Isaacson.
The 50-year-old polygamist softly answered, “Yes,” when Shumate asked if he was willing to postpone his preliminary hearing to November.
Jeffs faces two first-degree felony charges of being an accomplice to rape for allegedly conducting the spiritual marriage between the girl and a then-28-year-old man. The charges are punishable by five years to life in prison.
Washington County Prosecutor Brock Belnap has not said when the crime occurred. If reported to police, rape charges may be brought up to eight years later.
That deadline may be put on hold if a defendant moves out of Utah and then resume if he or she later returns.
Belnap has said previously the state has not brought rape charges against the woman’s husband – who also has not been publicly identified – for strategic reasons, but may do so in the future.
Jeffs, arrested during a traffic stop on I-15 north of Las Vegas on Aug. 28 after a year as a fugitive, is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The sect is based in the twin cities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.
Shumate said Wednesday he was troubled that Jeffs has not had a bail hearing, but Bugden said he will raise the issue later.
Two FLDS members attended the hearing: Nephi Jeffs, a younger brother of and secretary to the sect leader, and Lindsay Barlow, who runs a moving crew that helps relocate families within the FLDS.
Leaving the courthouse amid a swarm of journalists, Bugden responded to a shouted question about whether this is a case of religious persecution.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Let’s wait until we can have a trial in this matter before people jump to the conclusion that he’s guilty.”
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