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A judge on Wednesday released from jail another defendant in an alleged food stamp fraud case associated with the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, saying he was unimpressed by evidence that the defendant had purportedly once aided Warren Jeffs.
The defendant, Nephi Allred, is still charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud related to what prosecutors have alleged was a scheme involving the theft of food stamp benefits. A trial is scheduled to begin May 31, though it is likely to be postponed.
Allred, 40, must reside in Salt Lake County for at least the next 30 days and wear a GPS ankle monitor. Federal Judge Ted Stewart also placed one unusual condition on Allred: he cannot have contact with Ben Johnson, who prosecutors Wednesday described as the new FLDS bishop in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., the traditional home of the FLDS.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lund told Stewart on Wednesday that Johnson had been to visit Allred in the Weber County jail. Lund, citing recordings made on the jail's inmate visitation system, said that Johnson had committed witness tampering or had "come as close as you can to it."
Johnson is not charged with any crimes. The previous bishop was Lyle Jeffs, who is one of 11 defendants in the food stamp case and remains in jail pending trial. The only other remaining defendant in jail is Seth Jeffs, a full brother to Lyle and Warren.
In court papers and in front of Stewart on Wednesday, Lund argued Allred had helped Warren Jeffs, the FLDS president, evade law enforcement in 2005 and 2006.
But Stewart called that evidence "dated," and said Allred did less to help Warren Jeffs than did John Wayman another defendant whom Stewart released pending trial earlier this month.
"In many respects, there's less reason in my mind to detain Mr. Allred than Mr. Wayman," Stewart said.
Defense attorney Jon Williams pointed out that Allred was in Colorado when he learned of the warrant for his arrest, that he contacted FBI agents and agreed to drive back to Utah and surrender.
Williams said Allred is the father of 14 children.
"He provides for them everyday," Williams said.
At one point, Stewart made a reference to Allred having eight wives. Williams said the number is "significantly less than that."