Sealed competency report filed in polygamist sect leader's case

Mohave Daily News/May 10, 2007

Salt Lake City -- A report filed under seal in a southern Utah court suggests attorneys may have questions about the mental competency of a polygamist church leader facing charges of rape as an accomplice.

The ''Report of a Competence to Proceed Evaluation,'' dated April 6, was conducted by Associated Behavior Consultants of Holladay, Utah, according to a docket entry in Warren Jeffs' case in 5th District Court in St. George.

State licensing records list Eric Nielsen, a clinical social worker, as its registered agent.

Nielsen did not return a telephone message Wednesday seeking comment from The Associated Press. The report was filed Wednesday.

Jeffs, 51, is head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a polygamy-practicing sect of nearly 10,000 whose members mostly live in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz.

President of the church since 2004, Jeffs is charged with two first-degree felony counts of rape as an accomplice for his role in the 2001 spiritual marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.

Jeffs' general health has been in question since January when he was taken to a hospital from the Washington County jail for an undisclosed treatment. That was followed weeks later by a court petition seeking physician contact for Jeffs.

When last in court March 23, his health seemed in decline. Already tall and lanky, Jeffs seemed to have lost weight and appeared unable to follow the proceedings. At one point he drooled on the lapel of his suit.

Messages left for defense attorney Wally Bugden and Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap were not immediately returned.

Jail records obtained by The AP show Jeffs was visited by a ''Dr. Nielsen'' in early April. No first name was listed, and Washington County sheriff's Lt. Jake Adams said he could not provide additional information.

The company, which is commonly referred to as ABC, is frequently used by the court system to conduct mental-health evaluations, said defense attorneys Brian Barnard and Ed Brass, who are not involved in the Jeffs case.

The company has a contract to provide mental-health services to employees of the Utah Department of Corrections, spokesman Jack Ford said.

The report is the fifth time that documents have been filed under seal in the Jeffs case, secrecy that only Judge James Shumate can order.

A coalition of Utah news media, including The AP, has objected to the sealing of documents and has asked the court for notification of plans to keep other documents out of public access.

Media attorney David Reymann said the court provided no notice of this week's report nor of another sealed document filed April 23.

Shumate will hear arguments May 25 on the media's request to intervene in the case.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.