Five members of a polygamist sect pleaded not guilty Friday in Maricopa County Superior Court to charges of operating a Phoenix-area stolen-truck ring.
The five, dressed in blue jail uniforms and shackled hand and foot, stood silently before Judge Ronald Reinstein as he entered not guilty pleas on behalf of each of them.Reinstein set their trial date for Sept. 29 and scheduled a pretrial conference for Aug. 26. He also continued their bonds, which range from $274,000 to $834,000.
The arraignment was delayed briefly while Reinstein considered a motion from defense attorneys that news cameras be banned from the court room. He denied the motion but told photographers they could take pictures of the five only from behind.
Heber LeBaron, 24; Douglas Barlow, 28; Richard LeBaron, 18; Tarsa LeBaron, 22; and Cynthia LeBaron, whose age was not known, all were indicted July 19 by a county grand jury.
Each was charged with one count of conspiracy to control an illegal enterprise, one count of control of an illegal enterprise and 20 counts of theft. The county attorney's office said they were accused of stealing a number of late-model pickup trucks and four-wheel-drive vehicles in the Phoenix area.
The defendants are believed to be members of the Church of the Lamb of God, a polygamist sect founded by the late Ervil LeBaron. Members of the sect have been linked to 18 deaths or disappearances of LeBaron followers or members of their families over the past 22 years.
Barlow and Heber LeBaron also are wanted by Texas authorities. LeBaron has been tied to a November 1986 robbery in Richardson, Texas, and Barlow is wanted in a vehicle burglary in Houston.
Phoenix police arrested the five after conducting a routine check on a pickup truck parked outside a motel where they were staying and finding that it had been stolen in Texas.