Jailed polygamist leader faces new sex charges in Arizona

PHOENIX — The jailed leader of a polygamist sect has been indicted on new sex charges by an Arizona grand jury, adding to charges he already faces here and in Utah.

Warren Jeffs, who heads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was indicted on eight new sex offense counts involving two young women, Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said Thursday.

Jeffs was served with the new indictments Wednesday in his jail cell in Hurricane, Utah, where he is awaiting trial on two felony counts of rape as an accomplice related to a 2001 arranged marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her cousin. He’s also under federal indictment for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.


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

A call to Jeff’s criminal attorneys in Salt Lake City was not immediately returned Thursday. He does not have an attorney yet to represent him in Arizona.

The new Arizona charges also stem from his alleged arrangement of marriages between underage girls and adult men, Smith said.

The indictment charges Jeffs as an accomplice with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and two counts of incest for his alleged role in arraigning a marriage between a man in his early 50s and the man’s 17-year-old female relative.

He’s charged with four identical felony counts for a case involving another adult man who had sex with a minor teenage relative. The sexual conduct with a minor charges each carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison. The incest charge carries a maximum of 3 3/4 years in prison for each count.

The indictments were handed up by separate grand juries on May 10 and June 21, Smith said.

Jeffs was arrested last August in a traffic stop north of Las Vegas. He had been considered a fugitive from justice since 2005, when Arizona authorities charged him with two felonies for allegedly arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old girl and a 28-year-old man.

Jeffs faces life in prison on each of the charges he faces in Utah, but Smith said he still felt compelled to pursue additional charges.

“We certainly can’t sit back and anticipate he’s going to be brought to justice in Utah or by the feds,” Smith said. “But beyond that, anytime we’re aware of felony charges we’re going to file them, whether it’s Warren Jeffs or someone you’ve never heard of.”

The men who allegedly had sex with the girls have not been charged. They live in the community of Colorado City, Ariz., which along with nearby Hildale, Utah, is where most of the 10,000 FLDS members live.

The FLDS church practices polygamy and represents itself as an offshoot of the mainstream Mormon church, based in Salt Lake City. The Mormons, however, disavow any connection and renounced polygamy in 1890 as a condition of statehood.

Jeffs is considered by FLDS church members to be a prophet, and his directions must be followed.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday July 13, 2007.
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