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Polygamist Prophet Update

After fifth pretrial hearing, Jeffs still without counsel

By Jordan Smith, 6:51AM, Thu. Jan. 6, 2011

Warren Jeffs
Warren Jeffs

Polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs reportedly hired Austin attorney Gerry Morris yesterday, then fired him before the end of the day. Why? No one is saying.

That left Jeffs, the leader of the Mormon breakaway sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who is awaiting trial in San Angelo on two charges of sexual assault and one charge of bigamy, again without an attorney. He was slated to stand trial on the first of the charges beginning Jan. 24.

Indeed, Judge Barbara Walther and others have questioned whether Jeffs is just stalling for time – reportedly Jeffs has also refused to sign off on a waiver of his right as an extradited defendant to be tried within 120 days. That's not true, he reportedly told the court yesterday: "I just ask you to allow me a little more time in finding counsel that suits the needs I have,” he said. “I will seek help hastily from those who understand my needs. I’m not attempting to hinder in anyway the proceedings, only accomplishing what is needed to attain representation more suitable, not having full contact wherein I can interview on that can perform what I need. Therefore, I ask the court to not set the trial date until I have the counsel of my choosing. I request that there be an order of a simple one- or two-week extension of time to determine their full qualifications and abilities. I humbly ask the court for the sake of defense and justice served.”

At the end of the day, it was actually the prosecutor, Eric Nichols, who made the move to postpone the first trial date; the two sexual assault charges were consolidated into one case and the first trial will begin Feb. 21. In the meantime, Walther appointed local San Angelo attorney Fred Brigman to advise Jeffs while the prophet's search for legal counsel continues.

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