(CNN) — A judge in San Angelo, Texas, on Wednesday entered pleas of not guilty on behalf of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, who is scheduled to go on trial next month on bigamy and sexual assault charges.
Jeffs, who calls himself a prophet, spoke sparingly at his arraignment, but he told the judge he expects to have an attorney by a January 5 hearing, court officials said.
Jeffs, 55, leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the FLDS. The charges stem from an alleged spiritual marriage to a 12-year-old girl.
Jeffs’ Nevada-based attorney, Richard Wright, earlier sought to delay the trial, which is to begin January 24. But Judge Barbara Walther denied that request, saying the church leader has long known about the charges in Texas and had plenty of time to seek counsel.
No defense attorney attended Wednesday’s arraignment.
The sect leader was extradited several weeks ago from Utah and faces charges in Tom Green County.
Prosecutors filed the charges two years ago, after authorities raided the sect’s Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, and removed more than 400 children. At the time, authorities said they feared the children were sexually abused.
Most of the children were returned to their families at the ranch, but some men were charged with sexual abuse.
Not-guilty pleas entered for FLDS leader Warren Jeffs
Even without counsel, the state, represented by Eric Nichols, said it was prepared to hear Jeffs’ pleas with regard to his charges.
Jeffs is charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and bigamy.
Walther told Jeffs he could enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, and if he gave no response, the court would enter a plea of not guilty for him.
Jeffs said nothing on all three charges, and Walther entered pleas of not guilty.
His next court date is Jan. 5.
The first trial, on the charge of aggravated sexual assault, is scheduled for Jan. 24.
The trial on the charge of sexual assault is scheduled for Feb. 21, and the charge of felony bigamy is scheduled for March 14.
All three charges are first-degree felonies, punishable by five to 99 years or life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
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