Subpoenas issued for papers found with Warren Jeffs

FLDS leader's attorneys want cameras banned from court

Salt Lake Tribune/May 7, 2007
By Brooke Adams

A showdown over documents found when polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs was arrested in August may be headed for a state court.

Special fiduciary Bruce R. Wisan, a court-appointed fiduciary managing a property trust Jeffs once oversaw, has served subpoenas demanding the documents from the sect leader and two of his defense attorneys.

Jeffs has until May 15 and his attorneys, Walter Bugden and Tara Isaacson, until May 16 to comply or seek a hearing to argue why the items are protected. The government gave copies or the originals back to Jeffs while the legal status of the documents is reviewed.

Wisan has been unable to get any information from Jeffs about the United Effort Plan (UEP) Trust and believes many documents Jeffs had when arrested may shed light on the trust's operation.

"We don't have them yet, we'd like them and it's been eight months," said Jeff Shields, one of Wisan's attorneys. "There are documents we believe are relevant to our case and we can't get them."

The UEP Trust holds most all land and buildings in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. The trust, valued at $111 million, was formerly controlled by Jeffs and other leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Shields said his view is bolstered by documents seized from Seth Jeffs, Warren's brother, after his arrest in October 2005 on a traffic violation in Pueblo, Colo. Wisan and his attorneys were allowed to review those documents under a protective order that bars releasing the information publicly.

Bugden said he'll seek to quash the subpoenas because a federal judge is in the process of determining whether the records are protected.

Legal wrangling over the documents began almost as soon as they were discovered after Jeffs' arrest on Aug. 28 and has triggered tangled maneuvering in federal and state courts. The FBI has custody of the documents.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball ruled the documents are relevant to Wisan's efforts to "inventory" UEP property.

Meanwhile, a battle over the documents is still under way before U.S. District Judge Dee Benson, who is overseeing a federal unlawful flight case against Jeffs.

Jeffs' attorneys have asked Benson for an order that would prohibit release of the "religious records." Benson is set to hear arguments on that motion on May 24.

"It appears the trustee is trying to do an end run around [Benson], who has a motion scheduled to consider whether or not the documents are religious documents and are entitled to privilege and protection," Bugden said.

Wisan has overseen the UEP since May 2005, when a state judge granted a request by the Utah Attorney General's Office that it be placed under court oversight to protect its assets from civil lawsuits and alleged pilfering by Jeffs.

Attorneys for Warren S. Jeffs want news cameras banned from criminal court proceedings against him.

Lawyers made the request in response to an April 5 story in the Deseret Morning News, which digitally enhanced a photograph to glean some contents of a note written by Jeffs at his lawyers' desk during a hearing.

''How anyone could believe that there would not be an expectation of privacy in the private papers of the attorneys and of their clients is absurd,'' said Walter Bugden, one of Jeffs' attorneys.

Jeffs, 51, is charged with two first-degree felony counts of rape as an accomplice for his role in a 2001 arranged marriage between a 14-year-old church girl and her 19-year-old cousin.

The photograph was taken by a Deseret Morning News photographer who was serving as the media pool photographer during a March 23 hearing.

Publication of the note's contents will make it more difficult to find impartial jurors, court papers filed Wednesday in 5th District Court said.

Jeffs said he wanted to give the note to Judge James L. Shumate. But Shumate told him to discuss the matter with his attorneys, which kept the note private, Bugden said.

''Mr. Jeffs may have had an intention to address the public, but the judge - knowing things that I can't discuss - said you need to take that up with your lawyers,'' Bugden said.

A judge determines whether cameras are allowed in his courtroom. Attorneys for a coalition of media outlets, including The Salt Lake Tribune, plan to file a response to Jeffs' petition to ban cameras.

An April trial date for Jeffs' trial was postponed and no new date has been set as of yet.

What's in the papers?

Special fiduciary Bruce R. Wisan, who is overseeing a property trust formerly operated by the FLDS church, wants to see documents found with sect leader Warren S. Jeffs when he was arrested. He is asking for access to any documents related to:

  • Any occupancy or property use agreements involving United Effort Plan Trust property, including those involving financial transactions.
  • Any correspondence between Jeffs, other suspended trustees of the UEP and individuals or businesses on UEP property; removal or relocation of UEP property.
  • Lawsuits involving the UEP or describing the UEP's organization, structure, ownership, management and control.
  • Discussion of the fiduciary and his work.
  • Donations, contributions, consecrations, offerings and communications to Jeffs.
  • All records related to the administration of the UEP.

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