A polygamous church based on the Utah-Arizona border is seeking the return of property - which could include approximately $142,000 in cash - that was seized earlier this year from the brother of fugitive leader Warren Jeffs.
In a motion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Denver, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) indicates it wants property taken when Seth Steed Jeffs was arrested in Colorado. In addition, the church says it wants an order imposing "reasonable conditions to protect access to the property and its use in later proceedings."
The actual request for the property has been temporarily sealed. Thursday's motion asks that the request be permanently sealed and says, "The free exercise of the church's practice of religion contained within these documents is protected by the First Amendment to the the United States Constitution." Any objections to the sealing must be filed by Thursday.
Seth Jeffs, of Hildale, was arrested Oct. 28 by Pueblo County sheriff's deputies who were checking out a report of a possible drunken driver.
Officers stopped the suspicious vehicle on Interstate 25 near Pueblo, Colo., and found two occupants, driver Nathaniel Steed Allred, 27, and Jeffs, 32, his passenger. Allred is a nephew of Seth and Warren Jeffs.
Deputies obtained a search warrant for the vehicle.
Inside they allegedly found about $142,000 in cash, seven cellular phones, several envelopes with prepaid credit cards, prepaid cellular phone cards and hundreds of other sealed envelopes, many addressed to "The Prophet" or "Warren Jeffs." They also discovered a glass donation jar with a photograph of Warren Jeffs attached and a label that read, "Pennies for the Prophet."
A computer check turned up charges out of Mohave County, Ariz., against Warren Jeffs for allegedly arranging a marriage between a man who already was married and a 16-year-old girl. In addition, deputies found a federal warrant accusing the polygamous leader of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Seth Jeffs was arrested on a charge of harboring a wanted person, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is free on bond pending trial.
The FLDS Church, based in the twin cities of Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz., embraces polygamy as one of its beliefs. The sect broke away from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over its abandonment of plural marriage in 1890.