SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A Utah judge is scheduled to hear arguments Monday on a petition from polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs to quash an extradition agreement signed by the governors of Utah and Texas.
Jeffs is the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Utah-based church practices polygamy in arranged marriages.
Jeffs is wanted in Texas on charges of bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and assault charges allegedly involving underage girls at a church ranch near Eldorado. The charges stem from information gleaned from church and family records seized during a raid on the Yearning for Zion ranch in April 2008.
Jeffs’ attorneys say he should not go to Texas until his Utah cases are resolved. In July, the Utah Supreme Court overturned Jeffs’ 2007 convictions on accomplice rape charges, but Jeffs remains in state prison while authorities decide whether to retry him.
A hearing is set for 2:30 p.m. Monday in 3rd District Court before Judge Terry Christiansen.
In court papers, Jeffs’ attorneys have argued that the church leader could be fighting charges in Texas for years, jeopardizing his ability to participate in his Utah defense. They contend that the witnesses and documents could be difficult to relocate and memories could fade while Texas pursues its case.
“They seek to procrastinate the resolution of Mr. Jeffs’ long-standing Utah case indefinitely, while Texas, which has not even begun its prosecution, can start from scratch in yet another governmental attempt to remove the FLDS prophet from the public sphere,” attorneys Walter Bugden and Tara Isaacson wrote in court filings.
Prosecutors have said they dispute the factual accuracy and the legal sufficiency of Jeffs’ arguments.
In a written response filed with the court, Utah Assistant Attorney General Craig Barlow said Jeffs can’t challenge his extradition to Texas by arguing he has a right to a speedy trial, nor have his constitutional rights been violated. They contend Jeffs can only complain about a delay if the Utah case is retried in the 5th District Court.
“This is neither the time nor the place for Jeffs to argue these issues,” Barlow wrote in court papers.
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