Subpoenas issued for papers found with Warren Jeffs

A showdown over documents found when polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs was arrested in August may be headed for a state court.

Special fiduciary Bruce R. Wisan, a court-appointed fiduciary managing a property trust Jeffs once oversaw, has served subpoenas demanding the documents from the sect leader and two of his defense attorneys.

Jeffs has until May 15 and his attorneys, Walter Bugden and Tara Isaacson, until May 16 to comply or seek a hearing to argue why the items are protected. The government gave copies or the originals back to Jeffs while the legal status of the documents is reviewed.


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

Wisan has been unable to get any information from Jeffs about the United Effort Plan (UEP) Trust and believes many documents Jeffs had when arrested may shed light on the trust’s operation.

“We don’t have them yet, we’d like them and it’s been eight months,” said Jeff Shields, one of Wisan’s attorneys. “There are documents we believe are relevant to our case and we can’t get them.”

The UEP Trust holds most all land and buildings in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. The trust, valued at $111 million, was formerly controlled by Jeffs and other leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Shields said his view is bolstered by documents seized from Seth Jeffs, Warren’s brother, after his arrest in October 2005 on a traffic violation in Pueblo, Colo. Wisan and his attorneys were allowed to review those documents under a protective order that bars releasing the information publicly.

Bugden said he’ll seek to quash the subpoenas because a federal judge is in the process of determining whether the records are protected.

Legal wrangling over the documents began almost as soon as they were discovered after Jeffs’ arrest on Aug. 28 and has triggered tangled maneuvering in federal and state courts. The FBI has custody of the documents.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball ruled the documents are relevant to Wisan’s efforts to “inventory” UEP property.

Meanwhile, a battle over the documents is still under way before U.S. District Judge Dee Benson, who is overseeing a federal unlawful flight case against Jeffs.

Jeffs’ attorneys have asked Benson for an order that would prohibit release of the “religious records.” Benson is set to hear arguments on that motion on May 24.

“It appears the trustee is trying to do an end run around [Benson], who has a motion scheduled to consider whether or not the documents are religious documents and are entitled to privilege and protection,” Bugden said.

Wisan has overseen the UEP since May 2005, when a state judge granted a request by the Utah Attorney General’s Office that it be placed under court oversight to protect its assets from civil lawsuits and alleged pilfering by Jeffs.

What’s in the papers?

Special fiduciary Bruce R. Wisan, who is overseeing a property trust formerly operated by the FLDS church, wants to see documents found with sect leader Warren S. Jeffs when he was arrested. He is asking for access to any documents related to:

  • Any occupancy or property use agreements involving United Effort Plan Trust property, including those involving financial transactions.
  • Any correspondence between Jeffs, other suspended trustees of the UEP and individuals or businesses on UEP property; removal or relocation of UEP property.
  • Lawsuits involving the UEP or describing the UEP’s organization, structure, ownership, management and control.
  • Discussion of the fiduciary and his work.
  • Donations, contributions, consecrations, offerings and communications to Jeffs.
  • All records related to the administration of the UEP.
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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday May 7, 2007.
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