FLDS: Three pay visit to Jeffs in jail

People said they are friends of the family

San Angelo Standard-Times/December 4, 2010

San Angelo, Texas - Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, may have a cell to himself at the jail in Big Lake where he awaits prosecution for alleged sexual assaults and bigamy, but it doesn't leave him completely alone. He has had visitors.

On Saturday, three people came to see Jeffs for about an hour.

"We're just friends of the family," said one man who identified himself and the two prairie dress-wearing women who accompanied him as FLDS members.

The visitors declined to say whether they were from the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in Schleicher County, and the man said he didn't want to reveal what he spoke of with Jeffs.

"They would use that information against us," the man said.

Jeffs' visitors waited silently for admission to the visitation room, along with visitors waiting to see other prisoners, against the backdrop of the hum of the air conditioner.

On occasion the two young women exchanged knowing smiles.

The FLDS man said he had gone to see Jeffs on Wednesday, the day after Jeffs was extradited from Utah to Texas.

"He is doing well," the man said.

Reagan County Sheriff Jeff Garner said people who come from more than 100 miles away can have up to an hour of visitation time; otherwise they get 30 minutes.

"We're putting the monkey on the inmates' back," Garner said about having jail inmates coordinate their own visitations.

Garner said each prisoner is allowed to make a list of up to 10 people whom they can allow visitation as long as the people on the list meet a variety of criteria, such as not having been recently released from prison.

Jeffs has undergone a hurricane of legal proceedings.

He was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list when he was arrested in August 2006.

In 2007, Utah convicted him of being an accomplice to rape by performing an underage marriage between a 14-year-old girl and a 19-year-old man.

After that he was taken to Arizona for charges that included sexual conduct with a minor.

As he stayed 28 months in the Mohave County jail awaiting trial, convictions were pared down until the maximum penalty he could have served would have been two years incarceration, less time than Jeffs had already spent in jail.

In June 2010, Arizona dropped the charges and sent Jeffs back to Utah in hopes of getting him to Texas faster to face charges of aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and bigamy, all of them first-degree felonies that could have sentences of five to 99 years or life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Utah's conviction, however, became dubious because of the possibility that some documents were forged. In July 2010, the Utah Supreme Court overturned the 2007 conviction, citing faulty judge instructions to the jury.

The court ordered a retrial, but Utah decided to send Jeffs to Texas. Jeffs' attorneys fought the extradition to the Utah Supreme Court, but the court approved the extradition, and Jeffs was sent to Texas Tuesday night.

Sheriff's officials in Mohave County said Jeffs was not an easy prisoner to keep, requiring medical attention for excessive fasting, for example, but Garner said Jeffs hasn't given any trouble.

The evidence against Jeffs for the Texas cases came from an April 2008 raid on the FLDS-owned Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado.

A woman made what has since been determined to be a hoax call claiming abuse at the ranch, and law enforcement and Child Protective Services removed more than 400 children from the ranch. An appeals court ordered the children returned.

Law enforcement gathered hundreds of boxes of evidence, as well as DNA evidence, that it used to issue indictments against 12 FLDS men.

Seven of those men have gotten convictions ranging from six years to 75 years in prison, for offenses such as bigamy and sexual assault of a child.

Five men have undergone trials in Schleicher County and Tom Green County. Two made plea agreements.

Jeffs' first trial is scheduled for Jan. 24, and a pretrial has been set for Wednesday.

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