Polygamy Leader Apparently Sitting Out of Court Fight

KSL TV-5 News/February 28, 2005
By John Hollenhorst

A court showdown is looming in Salt Lake City over the financial empire of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, and he's apparently decided to sit it out without a fight. Meanwhile, Arizona authorities are moving toward a take-over of his community's school system.

A court deadline came and went Monday afternoon, and Warren Jeffs apparently did not file a response in a civil suit. That paves the way for Jeffs' rivals to take over a financial trust said to be worth tens of millions of dollars. That trust controls most of the land, houses and financial assets in Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona.

Critics say Jeffs uses the trust as leverage to control members of his polygamist church. It's also the apparent source of funds in Texas, where Jeffs' followers are building the first polygamist temple.

Lawyers for ousted former members have asked a judge to appoint new trustees to take over the trust. Jeffs seems to be ignoring the court process. Critics say he told his followers God will defend his church and that the world will end on April 6th.

Meanwhile, Arizona officials are trying to get control of the public school that Jeffs allegedly controls on the Utah-Arizona border. They say the Colorado City school is so badly mismanaged it's overspent by 1.2 million dollars in the last 20 months. The Arizona legislature is considering several bills that empower the state to take over and put the school in the hands of a temporary manager.

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