Texas, feds wait turns in polygamist cult leader cases

A Utah Supreme Court decision that overturns polygamous church leader Warren Jeffs‘ 2007 criminal conviction won’t automatically make him a free man.

Even if Utah doesn’t retry him, Texas and federal prosecutors are waiting to move forward with their own cases.

Utah officials now have two weeks to seek a rehearing before the state’s high court and then a month to decide if they’ll retry the 54-year-old head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on charges of first-degree felony rape as an accomplice.

A judge Wednesday set an Aug. 18 date for a hearing on a motion from Jeffs’ defense attorneys seeking a “speedy trial before a jury of his peers.”

Meanwhile, authorities in Texas are trying to get Jeffs sent there to face charges in connection with his own alleged marriages to underage girls in 2005.

A federal indictment stemming from Jeffs’ stint as a fugitive on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list is also pending.

Any federal prosecution would likely come after cases in Utah and Texas are resolved, Rydalch said, but in the hours after the ruling, it was unclear just how the states would proceed.

Tuesday’s ruling also comes as Washington County authorities investigate allegations that [Elissa] Wall may have lied about her medical records that were used in the trial. Filter declined to comment on the status of that investigation or its impact on any decision about a future prosecution of Jeffs.

Texas authorities have charged Jeff with bigamy, sexual assault of a child and aggravated assault related to alleged marriages between Jeffs and girls ages 17 and 15 in 2005. The cases are based on information from family records gathered during a 2008 raid on a church ranch near Eldorado.

After Tuesday’s ruling, however, an extradition hearing in 3rd District Court was canceled because Texas’ request to bring Jeffs there was based on his status as a convicted felon in custody. It will now have to be refiled in 5th District Court.

Jeffs will oppose extradition, Bugden said.

Jeffs has been serving two consecutive terms of five years to life at the Utah State Prison, but with the court’s reversal, he is now considered innocent and should soon be moved back to Washington County’s jail, Bugden said.

Jeffs’ lawyers hope to secure his release, but it seems unlikely that would occur. Federal prosecutors planned to file a detainer for Jeffs with the jail late Tuesday, Rydalch said.

“Even if everything else goes away, he would come in on the federal charges,” she said.

– Source / Full Story: Texas, feds wait turns in polygamist leader cases, Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press, July 29, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

See Also

Editorial published by The Salt Lake Tribune:

Polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs could, and we believe should, be back in court soon. The Utah Supreme Court granted Jeffs’ appeal and ordered a new trial on charges he was an accomplice in the rape of a teenage girl who was only 14 when Jeffs married her to her first cousin. It was a so-called spiritual marriage in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which Jeffs rules as president and prophet.

In 2007 we applauded Jeffs’ conviction. Despite this week’s court ruling, we still believe he should be held accountable for using his position of absolute authority over young girls to coerce them into plural marriages and order them to have sexual intercourse against their will.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff should carefully consider the ramifications of allowing Jeffs to go free. If Shurtleff decides against a second trial, he should, as he has proposed, push for a change in the state rape statute to better apply to any polygamous leaders who force young girls into illegal marriages. When the statute was written, such crimes in polygamous communities were not the focus.

Girls of such an age, raised in isolation and totally dominated by men, are too innocent to give consent to having sex, and that innocence is too easily manipulated by all-powerful FLDS leaders.

– Source / Full Story: Jeffs Ruling, Editorial, The Salt Lake Tribune, July 29, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog
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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday July 29, 2010.
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