The head of a polygamy-sanctioning religious group ended his last pretrial hearing this morning with 9 a.m. Monday set as the beginning of the trial, when jurors are to appear at the Tom Green County District Courthouse.
Warren Jeffs, the head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a polygamy-sanctioning offshoot of Mormonism, is charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child.
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The charges stem from an April 2008 raid on the church’s Yearning for Zion compound outside the town of Eldorado, south of San Angelo, where Jeffs is set to be tried. Authorities who believed underage girls were being forced into polygamous marriages temporarily removed more than 400 children living at the compound, and the story made headlines nationwide when women there were seen in frontier-style dresses and 19th century hairdos.
The raid left Jeffs and 11 others facing charges that included sexual assault and bigamy. Seven have been prosecuted since last year, and all were convicted in cases overseen by Walther — who signed the original search warrant that prompted the raid.
The AP story addresses the fact that Jeffs has twice attempted to have Texas District Judge Barbara Walther removed from his case “for bias, soliciting testimony Monday from court officials in an attempt to show she took an unusual interest in the case and received extra security because of it.”
Warren Jeffs has also repeatedly fired and hired lawyers. No fewer than seven attorneys have appeared as “counsels of record” for the sect leader, and according to the Salt Lake Tribune, “Prosecutors have accused Jeffs of playing musical chairs with his lawyers to delay the case.”
The San Antonio Standard Times says that at today’s hearing Jeffs’ attorneys
offered several motions having to do with a hearing on the suppression of evidence that would occur during jury selection, 51st District Judge Barbara Walther said. […]
The raid [on the Yearning for Zion Ranch] came as a result of law enforcement searching for a woman who called claiming abuse at the ranch. The call is widely believed to have been a hoax. Law enforcement authorities removed trailer loads of boxes of documents and electronic storage devices among other pieces of evidence.
Several FLDS men who had been indicted based on evidence from that raid held a suppression hearing in 2009, but Warren Jeffs was not among them.
The suppression hearing would happen after the potential jurors have been narrowed down, Walther said, but before jurors are sworn in.
Defense attorneys for several of the FLDS men indicted after the raid have argued that the evidence against them was obtained through illegal search and seizure since since the raid was allowed to take place on the basis of what turned out to be a hoax call.
Theologically, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) is a sect of Mormonism.
Sociologically, the FLDS is a high-demand, high-control, destructive cult. Among other things, it teaches and practices polygamy, breaks up families and marriages, and has engaged in arranged and forced marriages.