A doctor often visits Warren Jeffs in Utah jail

A polygamist church leader who appeared frail and disengaged during recent court proceedings was repeatedly visited in April by a man described as his personal physician, records from a southern Utah jail show.

Lloyd Hammon Barlow first saw Warren Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in the Washington County jail on Feb. 12, about two weeks after he was rushed to a St. George hospital for undisclosed treatment.

Barlow’s visit also came three days after documents related to a request for ”privileged physician contact” were filed under seal in 5th District Court in St. George.

Between April 2 and April 27, Barlow saw Jeffs nine times, Purgatory Correctional Facility records obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request show. It is unclear, however, if he is providing medical care.

Jeffs, 51, is in jail awaiting a trial on two first-degree felony counts of rape as an accomplice for his role in a 2001 spiritual marriage between a 14-year-old follower and her 19-year-old cousin. No trial date is set.

On Friday, attorneys for a Utah media coalition, including The Salt Lake Tribune, asked 5th District Judge James Shumate to open several records filed under seal in the case. The judge had asked whether the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, often called HIPAA, applied to courts.

In the new brief, the attorney argued the federal act applies only to health care providers and health insurance plans. Washington County prosecutors agreed in a separate filing.

Earlier this week, a “Report of a Competence to Proceed Evaluation,” conducted by Associated Behavior Consultants of Holladay and dated April 6, was noted on the case docket.

Jeffs was visited by a ”Dr. Nielsen” during the week of April 9. Although no first name was listed, state records list Eric Nielsen, a clinical social worker, as the firm’s registered agent. He did not return a telephone message from The AP.

Barlow is a Utah-licensed family practitioner and surgeon with a degree from the University of Utah, records show. AP’s efforts to reach him were unsuccessful. Jeffs’ Salt Lake City defense attorneys Walter Bugden and Tara Isaacson declined comment.

Shumate has scheduled a May 25 hearing on unsealing the documents. Media attorneys argued in Friday’s filing that when court documents are filed, “a presumptive right of access attaches that requires a party to meet a stringent constitutional test before documents may be placed under seal.”

They added: “Even if HIPAA were applicable to court records (which it is not), it would be trumped by this constitutional right of access,” they wrote.

Jeffs’ other visitors in April included his mother, Merilyn Jeffs; his first wife, Annette Barlow Jeffs; another wife, Naomie Jeffs, who was with Jeffs when he was arrested last year; a son and other church members.

* Nate Carlisle contributed to this story.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday May 12, 2007.
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