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A judge on Wednesday opted to keep two defendants charged in the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints food stamp case in jail until their trials.
That trial for defendants Seth Jeffs and John Wayman is now more likely to start on Jan. 30 in federal court in Salt Lake City than it was a day ago. Jeffs' attorney, Jay Winward, told Judge Ted Stewart on Tuesday that he would ask for a postponement so he could better review the evidence if his client was released from jail. Otherwise, Winward said, Jeffs would go to trial Jan. 30.
Wayman's attorney, Jim Bradshaw, told Stewart the trial should be delayed, but that he might not ask for a postponement if Wayman remained in jail.
Stewart on Wednesday confined his explanation to one page. His ruling said he found no changes in Jeffs' and Wayman's circumstances that would warrant release from jail.
"The Court remains convinced that Defendants are unlikely to abide by any condition or combination of conditions of release," Stewart wrote.
Wayman, 57, and Seth Jeffs, 43, were released once before in the case. They were re-arrested Aug. 1.
A petition made by the U.S. Probation Office said GPS ankle monitors showed Wayman, Seth 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.
Wayman and Seth Jeffs went to Stewart's courtroom on Tuesday asking for another chance. Their attorneys told Stewart they had learned their lessons and would be compliant with the terms of their release at all times.
The attorneys also said their clients would call them if they received any directives from Warren Jeffs, president of the FLDS Church, that were contrary to the release terms. The lawyers would then check with probation officers or Stewart.
Warren Jeffs is the brother of Seth and Lyle Jeffs. He 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.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lund told Stewart that Wayman and Seth Jeffs are more beholden to the church president than they are any court orders and could not be trusted to return for trial or not tamper with witnesses or destroy evidence. The arguments over whether Wayman and Seth Jeffs should be in jail also got tangled with ongoing concerns from defense attorneys about evidence in the case. Bradshaw and Winward told Stewart they still have not received all the FBI reports. Winward said he only recently learned of a store in Kanab where FLDS members may have used their benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and needed to interview employees there.
All 11 defendants are charged with one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the nutrition assistance program and one count of conspiracy to launder money. Lawyers for two of the defendants have said their clients have agreed to plead guilty to a reduced charge.