Judge to decide status of papers seized from Warren Jeffs

A federal judge in Nevada will hold a hearing to decide whether to release a mother lode of papers, ledgers and other documents seized when Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs was arrested.

The hearing on lawyers’ motions to get involved in the fight over Jeffs’ papers has been scheduled for Jan. 8 in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas.

Among those trying to get their hands on some of the FBI’s seized evidence is an ex-FLDS Church member trying to collect on a lawsuit he won against Jeffs and Bruce Wisan, the court-appointed special fiduciary of the FLDS Church’s financial empire, the United Effort Plan Trust.

“They just don’t seem to want to give us the information and we think it’s quite important to the trust and finding property and assets that belong to the trust,” Wisan told the Deseret Morning News on Tuesday.


The FLDS is also considered to be a cult of Christianity. Sociologically,the group is a high-control cult.

Jeffs’ lawyer, Richard Wright, has filed court papers demanding that the FBI return some of the evidence, claiming some of the papers have been deemed “sacred” and constitute privileged communication between the FLDS leader and his followers.

“These records include confidential religious writings and teachings of the FLDS, as well as privileged communications with FLDS members,” Wright said in an emergency motion filed shortly after Jeffs’ arrest.

Jeffs, 50, was one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives until he was arrested during a traffic stop outside Las Vegas in August. Inside the Cadillac Escalade that Jeffs was riding in, FBI agents told the Deseret Morning News they found more than $50,000 in cash, cell phones, laptop computers, a police scanner, a GPS device, papers and ledgers with the names of people offering money and shelter to Jeffs.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah is representing the FBI in the case and fighting to keep the papers.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff recently told the Deseret Morning News he wants to see the seized evidence to determine if it would help his organized crime investigation into Jeffs and the FLDS Church.

Wisan’s lawyers filed papers asking the judge to block the return of those papers until they see if they have anything to do with the $110 million UEP Trust.

In 2005, a judge wrested control of the UEP Trust from Jeffs and other top FLDS leaders after allegations surfaced that the assets were being funneled away from the people. Wisan was placed in charge of the trust, which has been recently reformed. The UEP controls homes, businesses and property in the FLDS-enclaves of Hildale, Utah; Colorado City, Ariz.; and Bountiful, British Columbia in Canada.

Jeffs remains jailed on charges of rape as an accomplice, a first-degree felony. He is accused of forcing a 14-year-old girl into a marriage with her 19-year-old first cousin. A preliminary hearing is scheduled to resume in St. George’s 5th District Court on Dec. 14.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday December 6, 2006.
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