Polygamist's Trial Heads to Texas?

Arizona drops charges against Warren Jeffs

An Arizona judge has granted a state motion to dismiss charges pending against Warren Jeffs, the polygamous leader of the Mormon breakaway sect the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Jeffs, who has been locked up since early 2008 in Kingman, Ariz., was facing charges of sexual conduct with a minor.

Prosecutors reportedly requested the dismissal for a variety of reasons, including that Jeffs has already spent more time behind bars awaiting trial than he would have if he had been convicted of the charges. Moreover, Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith told reporters, Jeffs is facing far more serious charges in Texas, which could result in a far lengthier sentence. Dropping the charges in Arizona will help speed up the process of having Jeffs extradited to Texas.

Jeffs has already been convicted of two counts of rape-as-accomplice in Utah in connection with his arranging a marriage between a 14-year-old girl, Elissa Walls, and one of her adult male relatives. Jeffs was sentenced to two consecutive prison terms of five years to life in 2007 in that case. He was charged in Texas in mid-2008 in the wake of a raid by law enforcement of the FLDS compound, the Yearning for Zion Ranch just outside the West Texas town of Eldorado; he's facing a bigamy charge and a felony sexual assault charge connected to his alleged sexual relationship with a minor female to whom he was apparently married.

But Jeffs' attorney Michael Piccarreta told The Arizona Republic that he believes Arizona dumped the cases against Jeffs because a key state witness, who also testified in the Utah cases, has now admitted to making false statements in court. The woman, a midwife, allegedly admitted to re-creating and backdating records related to a miscarriage Walls suffered after her marriage. Those records were used as proof that the marriage Jeffs arranged between Walls and her cousin had been consummated, thus resulting in the accomplice-to-rape charges. Jeffs' convictions in Utah are currently on appeal.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Warren Jeffs, Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Elissa Walls, Yearning for Zion Ranch

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