Polygamist sect members accused of child sexual assault and bigamy are looking at resolutions to their cases outside jury trials. The resolutions could include plea deals.
Wendell Loy Nielsen, a former president of the polygamy-sanctioning Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, attended his pretrial hearing in the gallery while 51st District Judge Barbara Walther debated the scheduling of a final pretrial hearing and a possible jury trial.
Nielsen faces three counts of third-degree bigamy, punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Warren Jeffs, who has been sentenced to life and 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting two girls ages 12 and 15, was still the head of the FLDS while Nielsen was president.
“We’ve been in consultation trying to resolve the case,” Nielsen’s attorney, David Botsford of Austin, said about negotiations with the state.
The judge set Oct. 14 as the day that attorneys have to decide what they agree upon in the case. Otherwise, they will meet for a final pretrial hearing Oct. 17.
The jury trial, if there is one, would be scheduled for Nov. 14. […]
The attorneys for Leroy Johnson Steed, another FLDS member, waited mostly outside the courtroom, but their meeting with Walther was canceled, Steed’s attorney, Clifton Holmes of Longview, said outside the courthouse.
Steed is charged with a first-degree felony sexual assault of a child, punishable by five to 99 years or life in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
During a pretrial hearing Sept. 8, attorneys said they were working toward a plea for Steed’s case.
His trial date is set for Nov. 29, though a final pretrial date hasn’t been set and no venue has been decided.
Both men have indictments out of Schleicher County, the result of a 2008 raid on the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch there. Authorities entered on allegations of child sexual assault, and eight men have been convicted so far because of the evidence collected then.
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