SALT LAKE CITY — Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs has filed a motion fighting his extradition from Utah to Texas "until after all pending prosecution in Utah is resolved."
Jeffs was convicted in Utah in 2007 on two counts of rape as an accomplice for his role in the "spiritual" wedding of a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin. The ruling was overturned earlier this year by the Utah Supreme Court and a new trial ordered because a judge cited an erroneous jury instruction that focused too heavily on Jeffs' relationship with the girl.
In Texas, he faces charges of bigamy and sexual assault. Gov. Gary Herbert signed an extradition warrant on Aug. 10 to have Jeffs sent to Texas. Jeffs refused to sign the warrant.
A hearing in the matter has been scheduled for Nov. 15.
In a petition and a supplemental memorandum filed in 3rd District Court to quash the extradition warrant, Jeffs' attorneys noted that based on the Supreme Court's ruling, he was now entitled to a speedy trial, bail and a host of other protections that were being violated and "ignored" by Utah and Texas.
"They have shrouded their ungodly alliance in the semantics of extradition law, hoping to conceal the otherwise obvious effects of their conspiracy against Mr. Jeffs' basic civil rights by inviting this court to ignore them," the defense wrote.
Rather than attempting to immediately retry Jeffs, defense attorneys say prosecutors are "punting" by "using (the warrant) as an offensive line to protect its weakened prosecution, buying time until it can figure out what to do next in its now frantic effort to defeat Mr. Jeffs and the unpopular religion he represents," the motion states.
Because of the wording in the Supreme Court decision, Jeffs' attorneys said it was "unlikely Utah could obtain another conviction." Furthermore, any conclusion to a trial in Texas could potentially be years away, defense attorneys say, further delaying legal action in Utah.
By delaying the case longer, witnesses will be more difficult to locate, memories will fade and documents may be lost, defense attorneys argued.
"Utah and Texas don't care about that, though. They seek to procrastinate the prosecution of Mr. Jeffs' long-standing Utah case indefinitely, while Texas, which has not even begun its prosecution, can start from scratch in yet another governmental attempt to remove the FLDS prophet from the public sphere," court records state.
Defense attorneys claim politics are being played so Utah can save face. But they also concede Jeffs will eventually be extradited to Texas to stand trial. They feel, however, he has a constitutional right to have his Utah case resolved first.
Jeffs is the leader of the Utah-based polygamous sect.
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