SALT LAKE CITY — Polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs on Tuesday refused to sign a waiver that would have allowed his extradition to Texas, where he faces bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and assault charges over alleged incidents with underage girls at a church ranch.
Dressed in a dark grey suit, Jeffs attended the short hearing in a West Jordan courtroom where he refused a waiver of extradition from Utah. It was his second refusal; Jeffs also refused in June, when Texas authorities brought a similar warrant to the Utah State Prison, where he is incarcerated.
Both the Utah and Texas governors have signed extradition warrants, setting up a legal mechanism for Jeffs’ transfer.
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Jeffs, 54, is the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The southern Utah-based church practices polygamy in arranged marriages that have involved underage girls.
Jeffs’ defense attorney, Walter Bugden, said his client was not trying to avoid facing the Texas charges, but wants a speedy trial in Utah first.
In Utah’s Washington County, Jeffs is facing a possible retrial on two counts of rape as an accomplice. The Utah Supreme Court recently overturned his 2007 conviction, ruling that faulty jury instructions denied Jeffs a fair trial and state attorneys misapplied accomplice liability law in the case.
Polygamous church leader Jeffs fights extradition to Texas
Warren S. Jeffs declined Tuesday to accept an extradition warrant aimed at sending him to Texas to face felony charges, leading a Utah judge to set a November hearing to consider the polygamous church leader’s objections.
The hearing lasted all of two minutes. State and defense attorneys met with 3rd District Judge Terry Christiansen in his chambers beforehand and worked out details — including allowing Jeffs to wear street clothes in his court appearances.
Jeffs wore a dark suit that draped his thin frame. His hair was closely cropped and appeared more gray since his last public appearance in 2007. A dozen men from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints rose to their feet as Jeffs appeared.
Craig Barlow, Utah assistant attorney general, said the November hearing has a narrow scope: Proving Jeffs’ identity and the “sufficiency” and “adequacy” of the Texas charges pending against him.
Barlow said the state does not believe a retrial on the Utah charges is necessary before Jeffs can be extradited.
[defense attorney Walter F.] Bugden said the defense will argue at the November hearing that Jeffs is entitled to either have his case here dismissed or to a speedy retrial.
“We will have the opportunity to argue why we believe the extradition to Texas is unlawful — not just that it doesn’t feel right but there is a legal basis to say the Texas and Utah governors are depriving Mister Jeffs of his constitutional right to a speedy trial and that they’ve entered into an improper agreement,” said Bugden.