In an outcome reminiscent of a "Sopranos" episode, fugitive Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs' younger brother is taking the fall, but keeping his mouth shut about "the family."
Seth Steed Jeffs was sentenced Friday in a Denver federal court to three years probation and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine.
In a brief statement before the court, Jeffs said he was leaving the polygamous border town of Hildale and plans to live in Colorado.
"I knew what I did was wrong as I was doing it, but I didn't realize the severity of what I was doing," he said. "I did all I can to remove myself from this situation. . . . I never want to find myself in that situation again."
Jeffs, 33, pleaded guilty to a single federal charge of harboring a fugitive. He admitted to helping keep his brother on the run from the FBI and local police. Jeffs has refused to reveal his brother's location to the FBI. He pleaded guilty straight-up to the charges and is therefore not required to tell them anything about where Warren Jeffs is.
Still, prosecutors consider it a victory.
"We feel that this was an important and successful prosecution because it has aided the government in its investigation into the church and the location of Warren Jeffs," said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Colorado.
Federal prosecutors had recommended three months in prison, but U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn said he would not "visit the sins of your fugitive brother on you."
In October 2005, Seth Jeffs and Nathaniel Allred were stopped in Pueblo, Colo., by police for driving erratically. Inside their Ford Excursion, police seized $142,000 in cash, pre-paid phone cards, credit cards, seven cell phones and even a donation jar with a label that read "Pennies for the Prophet."
Police said letters seized included questions addressed to Warren Jeffs seeking advice on a number of issues and discussed an on-going project the polygamist leader was involved in editing a compendium of his father's sermons.
According to plea deal documents obtained by the Deseret Morning News, Seth Jeffs told FBI agents he had been travelling to the FLDS Church's temple site in Eldorado, Texas about once a month. He was acting on behalf of FLDS Church Bishop William Jessop delivering letters and money "so that Warren Jeffs can do what he wants to do."
Warren Jeffs remains on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. He has been charged in Utah and Arizona with sex crimes related to forcing teenage girls into polygamous marriages with older men. Federal prosecutors have charged the polygamist leader with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. A $100,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his arrest.
"We continue in our efforts to locate Mr. Jeffs and will not stop until he is found," said Special Agent Patrick Kiernan of the FBI's Salt Lake City office. "Leads are still coming in and agents are constantly busy."
In another development, lawyers for the court-appointed special fiduciary of the FLDS Church's United Effort Plan (UEP) Trust want to take a look at those church documents the FBI seized from Seth Jeffs. Mark Callister said the fiduciary wants to know if any of those documents deal with missing property that belongs to the UEP.
"The FBI is not going to produce the documents at this time," he said. Callister filed papers in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court late Thursday, asking a judge to compel the FBI to hand them over.
"The evidence seized from the vehicle as well as the vehicle itself remain in the custody of the FBI and (are) the subject of separate litigation," Dorschner said Friday. "Its future will be decided as a result of that litigation by a judge."
The FBI in Denver had no comment on the motion.