Jeffs indicted on new criminal charge

Deseret Morning News/March 7, 2007
By Ben Winslow

A federal grand jury has indicted Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs on a single charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

The charge was handed down this morning in federal court in Salt Lake City. A copy of the indictment has been obtained by the Deseret Morning News.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah and the FBI declined comment.

Jeffs, 51, was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list until he was captured during a traffic stop outside Las Vegas last year. A Nevada Highway Patrol trooper stopped a red Cadillac Escalade because the temporary tag wasn't visible. Inside was Jeffs, one of his wives and one of his brothers.

Inside the Escalade, the FBI seized cash, computers, letters, documents, wigs, masks and other items believed to have helped Jeffs elude capture. That evidence is the subject of a legal fight between Jeffs' lawyers and the federal government. Jeffs' defense team claims the documents are "privileged" communications between the FLDS leader and his followers.

Jeffs is already facing charges of rape as an accomplice in St. George's 5th District Court. He is accused of performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin. Jeffs is scheduled to go on trial there in April.

Across the border in Mohave County, Ariz., Jeffs is facing charges of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. He is accused of arranging more child-bride marriages. However, prosecutors acknowledge their case is shaky after a witness in another marriage case refused to testify against her former husband.

A federal grand jury in Arizona had also been investigating Jeffs' whereabouts. Several of his followers were jailed on contempt charges for months after they refused to testify before the grand jury. They were ultimately released when Jeffs was captured.

Jeffs remains in the Purgatory Jail where he is being held without bail. His lawyers filed a motion in court on Tuesday, seeking to have his trial moved from southern Utah to Salt Lake County, claiming the negative publicity surrounding the FLDS leader and his religion makes it difficult to get a fair trial.

Defense attorney Walter Bugden Jr. also asked that the rape as an accomplice charge be declared "unconstitutionally vague."

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