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February 26, 2008 at 11:42 pm #1803AnonymousInactive
Polygamist ‘prophet’ in Arizona to face charges
Warren Jeffs accused of arranging marriages to child brides
He leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Jeffs is serving two five-year terms on similar Utah charges
PHOENIX, Arizona (AP) — Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs was handed over to Arizona authorities Tuesday to face sex charges stemming from the arranged marriages of two teenage girls to older relatives.
He already has been convicted in Utah in connection with one of those cases, involving a 14-year-old girl.
Deputies from the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office took custody of Jeffs from Utah officials, sheriff’s spokeswoman Trish Carter said.
“Now it’s our turn,” Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said. “I hope the message is very simple: the law applies to everybody, whether they’re the head of a large religious group, or somebody who’s not. It’s a crime to abuse children, and there are no exceptions.”
Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, will plead not guilty to the Arizona charges Wednesday in a Kingman court, said defense attorney Mike Piccarreta.
Jeffs, 52, is charged as an accomplice with four counts of incest and four counts of sexual contact with a minor in an indictment.
The Arizona charges stem from the arranged marriage of a man in his early 50s to a 17-year-old relative and another between a 19-year-old man and his 14-year-old cousin.
Jeffs was convicted last year in Utah of rape as an accomplice in the latter case, but Arizona prosecutors say that doesn’t preclude them from bringing charges here.
Members of the church live in the isolated twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona.
“Our interest has always been in making sure that the rule of law applies in Colorado City and northern Arizona,” Goddard said. “And certainly the most spectacular offender, the person doing the most to subvert the rule of law in that area, is Warren Jeffs.”
Piccarreta plans to ask the judge for a change of venue, saying the northwestern Arizona city of Kingman is too close to St. George, Utah, the site of Jeffs’ first trial, for him to get a fair trial here. The cities, separated by the Grand Canyon, are a more than 200-mile drive apart.
“If people want to give Mr. Jeffs a fair trial, we have to hold it in an area as far away as practical from the other case in Utah,” he said. “And that case to me is an example of what occurs when you don’t take the case away from people that have lots of knowledge and local publicity that has tainted the jury panel.”
Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said the trial, which will be months from now, should be held in Mohave County because that’s where the alleged crimes occurred.
It has been 2¬? years since Mohave County prosecutors filed charges against Jeffs and he went into hiding. He was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list when he was arrested in August 2006 in Nevada.
Jeffs was named president, or prophet, of the FLDS church 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.
Jeffs was sentenced in Utah to serve two consecutive terms of five years to life in prison. Smith has said that if Jeffs is convicted in Arizona he would have to finish his Utah sentence before doing time here.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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