Polygamist leader will go to Utah for prosecution | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Polygamist leader will go to Utah for prosecution

Paul Foy

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs will be prosecuted first in Utah, then in Arizona, on charges that he arranged marriages between underage girls and older men, authorities said Wednesday.

Arizona authorities filed charges first, but Utah prosecutors worked out an agreement to try Jeffs first because they have a stronger case and more serious charges, Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap said.

The two counts of rape by accomplice in Utah accuse Jeffs of forcing a girl to marry an older man and submit to him sexually.

“We have the gravity of the charges here,” Belnap said.

The victim says Jeffs performed the wedding over her repeated objections. After the girl continued to resist the man for a month Jeffs ordered her to “give your mind, body and soul to your husband like you’re supposed to,” according to a court affidavit obtained by The Associated Press.

“Go back and do what he tells you to do,” the affidavit quotes Jeffs saying.

Jeffs, 50, is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a group that broke away from the mainline Mormon church a century ago. He is said to have at least 40 wives and nearly 60 children.

He was captured late Monday after a traffic stop north of Las Vegas. He had been on the run for more than a year and on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list since May.

Jeffs, who was refusing jailhouse interviews Wednesday, was scheduled to appear Thursday at an extradition hearing in Nevada.

Jeffs won’t be able to post bail in Utah, while Arizona had set bail at $500,000 for the wealthy polygamous recluse – another factor in the decision to send him to Utah, Belnap said.

Jeffs didn’t have a lawyer Wednesday, according to prosecutors and court officials in Las Vegas, and one former church member predicted Jeffs would refuse to say anything in court on Thursday.

“He won’t even recognize their authority,” Andrew Chatwin said by telephone from the sect’s community of Hildale, Utah. “Warren’s done away with the Constitution in this part of the land.”

Chatwin said he believed Jeffs was in Las Vegas to check on a church-owned machine shop, Western Precision Inc., that moved from Hildale earlier this year.

Jeffs won’t be able to post bail in Utah, while Arizona had set bail at $500,000 for the wealthy polygamous recluse – another factor in the decision to send him to Utah, Belnap said.

In Utah, 5th District Judge James L. Shumate signed an arrest warrant Wednesday for Jeffs and a prosecution motion denying him bail.

Belnap said the decision to send Jeffs to Utah first instead of Arizona came after a conference call among state and federal prosecutors in both states.

Belnap said Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith, who obtained Arizona’s indictment against Jeff, “expressed that he was on board with the decision.” Smith didn’t return repeated calls Wednesday from The Associated Press.

“This is not a turf thing,” Belnap said.

Arizona’s charges accuse Jeffs of sexual misconduct involving another arranged marriage.

Jeffs was captured by chance Monday by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper who couldn’t make out the temporary Colorado paper license tag on a 2007 Cadillac Escalade driven by Jeffs’ most loyal brother.

The polygamist leader was being held Wednesday at the Clark County jail in Las Vegas, police Officer Jose Montoya said.

“His brother was here and saw him for 30 minutes,” Montoya said of a late Tuesday visit from Isaac Jeffs, who was released by authorities after the freeway traffic stop. “That was his only visitor.”

– Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this story.

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