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Utah charges dismissed against Warren Jeffs

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 9 2011 11:43 a.m. MST

FLDS leader Warren Jeffs arrives in a San Angelo, Texas, court on July 28, 2011. Because he is serving a life sentence in Texas, prosecutors in Utah announced Wednesday they will not retry him for performing a spiritual marriage of a 14-year-old.

Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

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ST. GEORGE — A judge dismissed rape charges against Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs Wednesday, following a motion filed by prosecutors.

"Based on the circumstances of the case, Mr. Jeffs' sentence he received in the state of Texas and after discussing with the victims and others involved in the case, we deemed it was not in the interest of justice to retry the case," said senior deputy Washington County attorney Brian Filter.

Jeffs was convicted on two counts of rape, a first-degree felony, following a jury trial in 2007 in connection with the "spiritual marriage" Jeffs performed of then-14-year-old Elissa Wall to her cousin Allen Steed.

During the 2007 trial, Wall, who is now an adult, testified that while she raised concerns before and after the union, Jeffs counseled her to give herself "mind, body and soul" to her husband and to "obey him without question."

In 2010, the Utah Supreme Court reversed the conviction and ordered a retrial on the grounds the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that Jeffs could not be found guilty as an accomplice to rape unless Jeffs specifically intended for Steed to have non-consensual sex with Wall.

Attorneys on both sides of the case said at the time that the high court's ruling would make retrying the case difficult. Meantime, Jeffs was extradited to Texas where he represented himself in trial on charges of sexual abuse of a child and aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

He was found guilty on both counts and sentenced to life in prison on one count and 20 years on another. The 55-year-old Jeffs will be at least 100 years old before he could be eligible for parole.

Filter said the sentence helped Washington County prosecutors make their decision.

"It's matter of judicial economy and in the interest of all people involved, especially the victim," Filter said, explaining that prosecutors didn't want to put Wall through another trial when Jeffs is already serving a life sentence.

Jeffs is considered the president and prophet of the FLDS Church, a Utah-based polygamist sect located primarily in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., with enclaves in Texas and British Columbia.

Frederick Merril Jessop, 75, was sentenced in Texas Tuesday to 10 years in prison for marrying Jeffs to a 12-year-old girl.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Jessop — who was bishop of the church's Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas — participated in marriage ceremonies involving 16 underage girls, including a 2006 ceremony between Jeffs and one of his underage brides. Prosecutors said several marriages Jessop performed involved women who had been married to Jeffs' father, the sect's previous leader, before he died.

Contributing: Associated Press

Emiley Morgan Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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