Prophet in Need of Attorney

Jeffs can't delay trial until he finds counsel

By Jordan Smith, 8:12AM, Wed. Jan. 5, 2011

Warren Jeffs
Warren Jeffs

Will Warren Jeffs, the imprisoned polygamist prophet of the Mormon breakaway sect the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, come to court today and announce that he's finally found a Texas attorney?

That's the question on the minds of many who plan to attend the prophet's fifth pretrial setting today in San Angelo.

Jeffs is facing trial on aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and bigamy, charges stemming from the infamous 2008 raid on the FLDS West Texas compound, the Yearning for Zion ranch.

The prophet was extradited to Texas late last year in order to stand on the Texas charges after Utah officials declined to immediately retry him on a rape-as-accomplice case. The Utah Supreme Court last year tossed Jeffs' five-to-life sentence in that case, citing problems with the jury charge.

And so now Jeffs faces a dilemma: He's been unable to find a Texas attorney willing to take his case, reportedly because there is little time to prepare for the first of his three trials (on the aggravated sexual assault charge), which is slated to start Jan. 24. According to Judge Barbara Walther, extradition law requires Jeffs to be tried within 120-days of his Nov. 30 arrival in Texas. Jeffs, then rep'd by his Nevada attorney (who isn't licensed in Texas), previously asked for a continuance in the case, but Walther declined to entertain that motion until Jeffs can find a Texas attorney to represent him.

In other words, Jeffs is, for the time being, a tad screwed.

The charges against Jeffs, in three states (he's was also indicted in Arizona, but the state has dismissed the charges against him because of problems with their evidence), stem from his performing marriages involving, or being married to, underage girls. Jeffs is among 12 members of the FLDS that Texas has indicted in connection with the FLDS' polygamist practices. So far the state has tried seven men, all of whom have been convicted and sentenced to between six and 75 years in prison.

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