KINGMAN, Ariz. Even in handcuffs, Warren Steed Jeffs held the respect of followers as they rose when he entered the courtroom for his initial appearance here.
Appearing thin and pale, Jeffs, 52, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to 10 felony counts involving arranged marriages between teenage girls and adult men in the Fundamentalist LDS Church. Jeffs is facing five counts of sexual conduct with a minor, four counts of incest and one count of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor in three separate cases.
Each charge is probation eligible or carries prison sentences ranging from nine months in prison to three years and nine months in prison. Jeffs is already serving two five-to-life sentences in Utah, having been convicted of two counts of 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.
Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven F. Conn set a case management hearing for March 19. Conn, who oversaw the case against Jeffs' co-defendant, Randolph Joseph Barlow, will also preside over the cases against Jeffs.
Jeffs' defense attorney Michael Piccarreta refused to comment after the hearing, saying he was going to speak to his client at the Mohave County Jail. Richard Wright, who also represented Jeffs in Utah, also declined to comment.
"This is not about religious prosecution or polygamy," Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith told reporters. "It's about having sex with underage girls."
It could be six to eight months before the first trial occurs, Smith said. Piccarreta has said he would file a motion to move the trial out of Kingman, citing the massive pre-trial publicity surrounding Jeffs and the FLDS Church.
The order of each trial depends on several factors, including the victims' willingness to cooperate. One of the victims in the Arizona cases is Elissa Wall, who was the star witness in Utah's prosecution of Jeffs.
The case against Barlow was dismissed because the alleged victim refused to testify. Candi Shapley will be approached again and asked to cooperate, Smith said.
"I have no information about prosecution in a current case where she is a witness," Shapley's attorney, Mikkel Jordahl, told the Kingman Daily Miner.
In a 2006 letter to Judge Conn, Shapley described herself as "the supposed victim of a case that has been blown out of proportion in an effort to get Warren Jeffs."
Shapley said she felt prepared for a marriage granted by Jeffs. She said she felt pressured to testify by Mohave County authorities while her baby was having surgery in Salt Lake City.
"Of course I said whatever they wanted me to say," Shapley wrote. "I wanted to get it over with and be done with it.
"And of course I regretted it afterward," she added. "I never had any intention of making any trouble for anyone."