Jeffs Will Be Isolated in Utah Jail

Associated Press/September 3, 2006

Hurricane, Utah -- When he is extradited to Utah to face rape charges, the leader of a polygamist sect will await court proceedings isolated in his cell in the Purgatory Correctional Facility -- locked down for 23 hours each day.

Warren Jeffs will get just one hour daily for showers, phone calls and exercise, and up to two hours each week for visitors, Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith said Thursday. He will be held without bail.

The existence will be a far cry from the lavish life to which Jeffs is accustomed.

In Hildale, the home base of the 10,000-member Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Jeffs lived in a million-dollar mansion behind a 14-foot brick wall. He's also built big homes at church enclaves across the West.

When captured by police outside Las Vegas Monday after more than a year on the run, Jeffs was riding in a 2007 Cadillac Escalade worth more than $90,000 and was carrying $54,000 in cash, police said.

"He's the richest guy in town. He has more money than anybody there," said Sam Brower, a private investigator who works for attorneys who have filed civil cases against Jeffs.

That larger-than-life image was shattered Thursday when Jeffs made his first public appearance in a Las Vegas courtroom. Looking frail and timid, Jeffs spoke almost inaudibly as he agreed to be extradited to Utah to face two counts of rape by accomplice -- charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

Jeffs, 50, is charged in Utah and Arizona with crimes related to the arrangement of marriages between older men and girls, some as young as 13.

Washington County officials now have 30 days to transfer him from the Clark County Jail in Las Vegas, but Smith said it was unclear when the move would take place.

"Either (day) 29 or 2," he told reporters Thursday in St. George, Utah. "We're just in the first day after the hearing. We'll put it together. I honestly don't have any idea at this point in time."

Smith said his office is planning Jeffs' transfer carefully to ensure nothing would "jeopardize the safe transport and housing of Mr. Jeffs."

Before his capture, Jeffs, who is considered a prophet of God by followers, had claimed to be invincible, protected by God, with bodyguards who promised to fight to the death for him, authorities said.

Court documents show that among the items seized by police on Monday was a statement or letter from Jeffs that compelled followers to help him evade capture.

"So I have to be hiding in my travels, not let anyone know. And when I come to a land of refuge, you must not reveal where I am in your phone calls and your letters," wrote Jeffs, who also told arresting officers he had "no fixed address."

Also in the vehicle were maps, lists of people contributing money to Jeffs and the names of those providing "hiding houses," the documents said.

Gary Engels, an investigator with the Mohave County district attorney's office in Arizona who has tracked Jeffs for years, surmised the fugitive may have picked up the money just before he was arrested.

"I have no doubt they had couriers running money to him," Engels said of Jeffs' followers.

Engels said he thought Jeffs might have been in southern Nevada to visit his followers who moved there in recent years from Hildale, Utah, and neighboring Colorado City, Ariz.

Jeffs' sect was formed after the Mormon church disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago. He took over the FLDS in 2002 after the death of his 98-year-old father. He is said to have at least 40 wives and nearly 60 children.

Prosecutors said they hope Jeffs' arrest will break his hold on followers and empower them to speak out about their lives within a sect that condoned marriages of young girls.

"The community is quite insular, it's very protected. We believe right now they are circling the wagons," said Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap. "But we also know that there are people who would come forward if they thought that they were secure and safe."

Belnap said his case against Jeffs doesn't accuse him of having sex with an underage girl, only that by arranging the marriage between the girl and an older man, he encouraged another to do so.

The girl was between the age of 14 and 18 when the alleged crime occurred some time in the last four years, Belnap said. He would not identify the girl, saying only that she is a longtime resident of Hildale and willing to testify.

The county has not filed charges against the girl's husband but a case could still be developed, he added.

Meanwhile, a federal warrant accusing Jeffs of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution remained active Thursday, said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Salt Lake City.

"We're waiting to see if it is needed," Rydalch said of the charge, which carries a possible penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison.

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