ST. GEORGE A judge here denied a pair of legal motions seeking to derail the criminal case against Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs. Defense attorneys argued that Utah's rape as an accomplice law was unconstitutionally vague and that the order to bind Jeffs over for trial should be quashed.
"It is plain and simple arbitrary enforcement," Jeffs' lawyer Richard Wright said this morning, challenging the rape law. He argued the statute is too broad and anyone would be open to prosecution.
"Any words to encourage her to go against her will could be seen as enticement," 5th District Judge James Shumate said, denying the motion.
Jeffs, 51, is charged with rape as an accomplice, a first-degree felony. He is accused of performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
Challenging the judge's decision to bind Jeffs over for trial, defense attorney Tara Isaacson said the idea of a "husband-wife" relationship being a position of trust could be applied too broadly to other cultures.
"It's dangerous ground," she said.
Washington County prosecutors countered that the victim's husband became her "priesthood head" through the marriage and that Jeffs told the girl to give herself "mind, body and soul" to him.
"There is no question Mr. Jeffs intended (the husband) to occupy a position of special trust," deputy Washington County Attorney Ryan Shaum said.
Isaacson also claimed the FLDS leader was unaware of any non-consensual sex taking place.
"It was a reasonable belief of Mr. Jeffs that there would be consensual intercourse," she said.
The judge denied the motion, saying his initial decision was appropriate.
This afternoon, the court will hear from pollster Dan Jones who will testify that Jeffs cannot get a fair trial in southern Utah based on a survey he conducted. Defense attorneys are asking to have the trial moved to Salt Lake County, citing pre-trial publicity.
In court, Jeffs appeared extremely thin and pale. His followers stood in a show of respect, but he only glanced at them briefly. At times during the proceedings, Jeffs closed his eyes for long periods of time and appeared to be nodding off. He would occasionally write on some paper.
Washington County prosecutors refused to comment again on a Deseret Morning News report that Jeffs had reportedly renounced his claim as "prophet" of the FLDS Church.
Speaking to reporters outside of court, Mohave County Attorney's investigator Gary Engels said he could not say whether Jeffs made the statement or if a tape of it was in the hands of law enforcement.
"I can't comment on that," he said.
As they rushed inside the courthouse, many of Jeffs' faithful followers refused to speak to reporters. Private investigator Sam Brower said Jeffs' influence on the polygamous communities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz., may be waning with the FLDS leader behind bars.
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