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Defense attorneys on Tuesday told a federal court judge that their clients, in order to stay out of jail, will be willing to check with the judge before following any questionable orders from Warren Jeffs, president of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint.
Tuesday's hearing was the latest effort by John Wayman and Seth Jeffs, two of 11 FLDS members accused of food stamp fraud, to be freed pending trial. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart told those in the courtroom he would issue rulings late Wednesday.
Seth Jeffs is a brother of the imprisoned Warren Jeffs. Much of Tuesday's hearings focused on Warren and another Jeffs brother, Lyle, who also is a defendant in the fraud case and who absconded in June.
Wayman and Seth Jeffs were arrested in February with the other defendants. After about a month in jail, they were freed pending trial. Federal agents arrested them again Aug. 1.
A petition made by the U.S. Probation Office said GPS ankle monitors showed Wayman, Jeffs and another defendant, Preston Yeates Barlow, were all at the same location on multiple occasions in July. The terms of their release had forbidden them from associating with other defendants in the fraud case. Barlow was later released.
During Wayman's hearing, Bradshaw told Stewart that his client now understands that he needs to comply with Stewart's terms of release at all times. Bradshaw said Wayman's problem is not that he is non-compliant.
"It's that he's too compliant," Bradshaw said. "He's been compliant to two masters."
During the summer, Wayman was trying to follow Stewart's terms and perform religious duties ordered by Warren Jeffs.
Bradshaw said if his client were to encounter any future conflicts, Wayman, who was wearing a blue jail jumpsuit and shackles Tuesday, would call Bradshaw, who in turn would call federal probation officers or Stewart and find a solution.
Stewart pondered whether Wayman would really seek guidance on a Warren Jeffs directive.
"What if it was something fairly extreme, such as run, flee, follow Lyle Jeffs?" Stewart asked. "You honestly believe ... "
"I do," Bradshaw replied, cutting off the judge.
Stewart asked if Wayman would accept house arrest at a residence in Salt Lake County. Bradshaw said yes, but Wayman would prefer house arrest in Cedar City or St. George so he could be closer to family.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lund told Stewart that Wayman and Seth Jeffs have a history of obstructing law enforcement going back to when Warren Jeffs was on the FBI's list of 10 most wanted fugitives in 2006. There are no conditions Stewart could place on Wayman and Seth Jeffs to guarantee their compliance, Lund said.
"The defendants are beholden to Warren Jeffs in ways they are not beholden to this court," Lund said.
A shackled Seth Jeffs arrived in the courtroom about 30 minutes after Wayman's hearing ended. Defense attorney Jay Winward said new evidence in the criminal case shows Seth Jeffs was never a bishop for the FLDS, as had been alleged.
"Without that authority, he is just another member, albeit with a last name and appearance that is detrimental to him," Winward said.
Winward said his client was sorry for his actions during the summer and will call him if he ever has a question about how to follow Stewart's orders. "He will even call me if Mr. Warren Jeffs tells him to run," Winward said.
Winward and Bradshaw both told Stewart that the Jan. 30 trial date needs to be postponed since the government still has not provided the defense with all the evidence. But Winward told Stewart he would not seek a delay if Seth Jeffs remains in jail pending trial.
Lund told Stewart that there is not much evidence left to provide only a few hundred pages. As for Seth Jeffs' church authority, even if he is not a bishop, he is still a leader in the church and counseled members to consecrate their food stamp benefits.
"The Jeffses run the FLDS," Lund said.
Seth Jeffs and Wayman are the only two of the 11 defendants who remain in jail pending trial.
Lawyers for at least two defendants, Kimball Dee Barlow and Ruth Barlow, have said their clients will plead guilty to misdemeanors.
As of Monday, each of the defendants remained charged with two felony counts of attempted conspiracy. They have pleaded not guilty.
Warren Jeffs is serving a prison sentence of life plus 20 years in Texas for convictions related to sexually abusing two underage girls he married as spiritual wives.
About 30 members of the FLDS, dressed in their distinctive, austere attire, sat in the gallery on Tuesday.