2 Counts Dropped Vs. Polygamist Leader

Associated Press/March 20, 2008

Phoenix - A judge on Wednesday dismissed two of 10 charges against a polygamist sect leader accused of arranging marriages between underage female parishioners and their older relatives.

A county prosecutor had asked a state judge to drop the two counts against Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The charges dismissed were of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said a woman who was allegedly made to marry an older relative when she was 16 years old was refusing to testify after previously cooperating with authorities.

Superior Court Judge Steven Conn made no rulings at the hearing in Kingman, about 160 miles northwest of Phoenix. Jeffs' next court hearing is set for May 19.

Jeffs was convicted in Utah last year of rape as an accomplice in the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin and sentenced to two terms of five years to life in prison.

He is still charged as an accomplice in Arizona with four counts each of incest and sexual conduct with a minor stemming from two arranged marriages between teenage girls and their older male relatives.

In Salt Lake City on Wednesday, six men who sued Jeffs in 2004 claiming they had been unfairly kicked out of the church, and a man who sued Jeffs claiming the FLDS leader had sexually assaulted him, filed papers in state court asking that the lawsuits be dismissed.

Roger Hoole, an attorney for the men, said in a statement that the men's "objectives have largely been met."

Those objectives included wresting control of a $114 million church property trust from church leaders; ousting some members of the police department in the church-controlled border towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah; and helping law enforcers locate victims of child abuse willing to testify against Jeffs.

Jeffs, 52, became president, or prophet, of the FLDS in 2002. The mainstream Mormon church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, renounced polygamy more than a century ago, excommunicates members who engage in the practice and disavows any connection with the FLDS church.

Associated Press writer Jennifer Dobner in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

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