KINGMAN, Ariz. Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs' defense team is asking a judge to dismiss a grand jury indictment against him that led to charges of sexual misconduct and incest as an accomplice. The defense team accused Arizona prosecutors of presenting misleading information to the grand jury.
"The state presented inaccurate information, failed to present clearly exculpatory information and improperly influenced the grand jury," lawyers Richard Wright and Michael Piccarreta wrote. "Accordingly, Mr. Jeffs is entitled to a remand."
In papers filed in Mohave County Superior Court, Jeffs' lawyers also announce they intend to pursue a defense that proves Jeffs' innocence and appear to be ready to pounce on a high-profile book deal by one of the alleged victims.
The Mohave County Attorney's Office did not immediately offer a comment but is expected to reply to the court in its own filings.
Clad in a bulletproof vest, Jeffs sat quietly during a hearing in a Kingman court on Friday as a judge took under advisement an earlier request to dismiss the incest charges, leaving only the sexual misconduct charges. The FLDS leader is charged there with sexual misconduct with a minor and incest as an accomplice, accusing him of performing child-bride marriages.
The judge also took under advisement a request for a subpoena seeking medical records in one of the cases.
A prosecutor with the Arizona Attorney General's Office raised the possibility that evidence from the raid on the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch in early April might be used to bring additional charges against Jeffs.
Timothy Linnins told Judge Steven Conn that both his and the Mohave County Attorney's Office had spoken with Texas authorities about the raid. He did not go into details regarding what evidence might have been found or what additional charges might be brought against the FLDS leader.Outside of court, Piccarreta said that if evidence from the Texas raid was brought into the case, he would most likely argue the search and seizure of evidence from the ranch was illegal.
In new court motions seeking to remand the indictments, Jeffs' lawyers argue that the massive pre-trial publicity surrounding the FLDS leader's case hurt his chances before the grand jury. Jeffs earlier underwent a Utah trial last year and was convicted of two counts of rape as an accomplice and was sentenced to serve up to life in prison for the marriage between a then-14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin. He also is facing a federal grand jury indictment in Salt Lake City charging him with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, related to a period of time when he was on the FBI's Most Wanted list.
The defense attorneys also accuse Mohave County prosecutors of not doing enough to ensure that jurors were impartial.
Most seriously, Jeffs' defense team accuses prosecutors and law enforcement of making misleading statements to the grand jury to secure the indictment.
In the case involving a young girl and a man named Leonard Barlow, the defense said prosecutors went into great detail about meetings that occurred between the couple and Jeffs.
"The state went so far as to present evidence that (the alleged victim) claimed that, at one of these meetings, Mr. Jeffs wanted her and Leonard to have sex right then and there," the attorneys wrote.
"However, the state conveniently neglected to inform the grand jury of (the alleged victim's) statements about what happened next, i.e., her claim that she opened a window, cut the screen, climbed out, threw a rock through Warren Jeffs' office window, and hid out in the woods for three days."
The attorneys noted that the window was 15 to 20 feet above the ground, questioning the accuracy of her story.
The defense team attacks the state's theory that Jeffs' word is absolute among his followers. In the case involving Elissa Wall and Allen Steed (the couple named in the Utah case) they say that Jeffs is charged as an accomplice strictly because of his position in the church.
"Mr. Jeffs assisted his father, Rulon Jeffs, in performing a marriage between (the alleged victim) and Allen Steed that took place with parental consent and the consent of all concerned parties," the attorneys wrote.
"After the marriage, Warren Jeffs counseled the couple, in accordance with FLDS religious teachings, that married couples should have children."
Steed now is charged in St. George's 5th District Court with rape stemming from his 2001 marriage to Wall, who was the star witness in Utah's criminal case against Jeffs.
Wall, who is also a witness in one of the Arizona cases, has filed a civil lawsuit against Jeffs and the FLDS Church and recently released her autobiography, titled "Stolen Innocence." Since its release on Tuesday, the book is ranked 29th on Amazon.com's bestseller list.
Defense attorneys accuse prosecutors of eliciting hearsay from ex-FLDS members presented as "experts on all things FLDS."
"The prosecutor also gratuitously injected Mr. Jeffs' statements to his brother wherein he apparently had a temporary crisis of faith about his position in the church," they wrote, referring to taped conversations Jeffs had with his brother, Nephi, while Warren Jeffs was incarcerated in Hurricane's Purgatory Jail.The Deseret News first reported last year on those conversations in which Jeffs renounced his role as"prophet" of the FLDS Church but later recanted those statements. Jeffs' portrait still hangs in the homes of FLDS faithful, who still consider him their leader.
Pursuant to Arizona court rules, lawyers for Jeffs filed notice of their possible defenses, including: no intent, knowledge nor requisite mens rea (Latin for "guilty mind") factual innocence, mistake of fact, mistake of law, consent, insufficiency of prior conviction, someone else committed the alleged offense and violation of Jeffs' constitutional rights.
The defense witness list filed in the Mohave County Superior Court includes an expert on polygamy, anyone listed in police reports or the grand jury transcript, and numerous FLDS members. Allen Steed is also on the defense list in the case involving his ex-wife.
Wall's lawyer, Roger Hoole, and the custodian of records for a Utah-based group that helps children leaving the FLDS communities are also being sought for testimony. So is Lisa Pulitzer, Wall's co-author for her book.
Jeffs' lawyers are demanding to see "book contracts, drafts of manuscript of the proposed book and any other financial benefits Wall received, agreements to provide information related to the events associated with this matter, including book deals or appearance fees and any related payments or expenses."
Police reports and medical reports in the other case are also sought, as well as the personnel file of Mohave County Attorney's Investigator Gary Engels, who has pursued the criminal cases against Jeffs in Arizona."Defendant may use any or all of the tapes and/or transcripts which were made of the conversations between the agents, confidential informant and defendant," Jeffs' attorneys wrote.
Contributing: Suzanne Adams, Kingman Daily Miner