Now that he’s convicted, what’s next for Warren Jeffs?

ST. GEORGE – Next stop for polygamist leader Warren S. Jeffs: another courtroom.

In Utah, he faces a federal count of flight to avoid prosecution. In Mohave County, Ariz., he is charged with eight counts related to two teen brides. One of the brides is Elissa Wall, the woman at the heart of his just-completed Utah trial.

“No final decision has been made yet on where Mr. Jeffs will go next,” Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said Tuesday in a statement. “There is a strong possibility that he will be coming to Mohave County.”

Jeffs is being held without bail on the federal charge; a $1 million bail is set in the Arizona cases and he has already waived extradition.

Different state law

Arizona’s charges against Jeffs could be “a little easier” to prove than Utah’s rape as an accomplice charges, said Mohave County Special Investigator Gary Engles.

Under Utah law, the 14-year-old Wall was considered legally able to consent to sex, requiring prosecutors to show she was improperly enticed. But in Arizona, a 14-year-old cannot legally consent, meaning the chief question for a jury will be whether sex occurred, he explained.

The Arizona charges allege:

– One teenager was sexually assaulted in the “vicinity of a trailer in Colorado City” between May 1, 2002, and June 30, 2002.

– The other teenager was sexually assaulted on or about Aug. 31, 2003, in the vicinity of 40 W. Johnson Ave. in Colorado City.

Jeffs is charged with four identical counts in each case: two counts of sexual conduct with a minor as an accomplice and two counts of incest as an accomplice.

Sexual conduct with a minor is a Class 6 felony punishable by 4 months to 2 years in prison, or probation. Incest is a class 4 felony punishable by one to 3.75 years in prison, or probation.

Regardless of Utah’s verdict, “We are willing to prosecute if the victims want us to do it,” Engles said.

The federal case. Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith had been the first to charge Jeffs, accusing him in 2005 of being an accomplice in three cases involving underage marriages. Washington County authorities filed their rape as an accomplice charge against Jeffs in April 2006.

Those state prosecutions led to the federal flight charge.

Jeffs allegedly spent nearly 15 months as a fugitive, even making the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives list. While in hiding, he moved among safe houses in various states. He was arrested on Aug. 28, 2006, during a traffic stop on I-15 outside Las Vegas.

Utah tried Jeffs first because authorities believed its case was the strongest; it also carried a stiffer penalty than the Arizona charges.

And as it turned out, Mohave County’s original three cases collapsed, due to jurisidicational or witnes problems. Smith announced the two new cases – including the one based on Wall – in mid-July.

Evidence in the federal case includes $67,500 in $100 bills, credit cards, 14 cell phones, two GPS units and three wigs found in the Escalade Jeffs was a passenger in when he was arrested.

Other legal issues. Jeffs also is named in several lawsuits. One alleges misconduct as a trustee for a property trust connected to his church.

One was filed by Wall, who alleges harm from a forced marriage. She is trying to negotiate a settlement from the trust.

Another lawsuit was filed by six teens who allege they were kicked out of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, where Jeffs’ followers are based, for trivial reasons. A final suit was filed by a nephew who alleges sexual molestation.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday September 25, 2007.
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