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Warren S. Jeffs declined Tuesday to accept an extradition warrant aimed at sending him to Texas to face felony charges, leading a Utah judge to set a November hearing to consider the polygamous church leader's objections.
The hearing lasted all of two minutes. State and defense attorneys met with 3rd District Judge Terry Christiansen in his chambers beforehand and worked out details including allowing Jeffs to wear street clothes in his court appearances.
Jeffs entered the courtroom from an adjoining holding cell accompanied by several bailiffs and stood at a lectern with defense attorney Walter F. Bugden for the brief session. Jeffs wore a dark suit that draped his thin frame. His hair was closely cropped and appeared more gray since his last public appearance in 2007. A dozen men from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints rose to their feet as Jeffs appeared. He scanned the audience and smiled at the FLDS members.
Christiansen asked Jeffs to confirm his full name and whether court documents correctly spelled his name and listed his date of birth.
Jeffs answered "Yes" and "Yes, sir" to the judge's series of questions.
Bugden told the judge his client planned to file a habeas corpus objection to being taken to Texas. Christiansen will hear those arguments on Nov. 15.
Jeffs was sentenced in Utah to two five-to-life sentences on accomplice to rape charges based on a marriage he conducted in 2001 between a 14-year-old girl and a 19-year-old man. The woman testified she objected to the religious marriage.
The Utah Supreme Court, however, ruled in July that faulty instructions were given to the Washington County jury that found Jeffs guilty and sent the case back for a new trial. The state has not yet decided whether to retry Jeffs.
Meanwhile, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has signed an extradition request from Texas Gov. Rick Perry that would allow Jeffs, 54, to be taken to Schleicher County, Texas, to face charges of bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault. The charges are based on Jeffs' alleged marriages to two underage girls.
Craig Barlow, Utah assistant attorney general, said the November hearing has a narrow scope: Proving Jeffs' identity and the "sufficiency" and "adequacy" of the Texas charges pending against him.
Barlow said the state does not believe a retrial on the Utah charges is necessary before Jeffs can be extradited.
"We don't need him here right now and we think the great state of Texas ought to have an opportunity to try Mister Jeffs for the crimes he has been alleged to have commit in Texas," he said.
The state also has asked the Utah Supreme Court to clarify its ruling regarding the exact wording that must be used in jury instructions for accomplice cases.
Bugden said the defense will argue at the November hearing that Jeffs is entitled to either have his case here dismissed or to a speedy retrial.
"We will have the opportunity to argue why we believe the extradition to Texas is unlawful not just that it doesn't feel right but there is a legal basis to say the Texas and Utah governors are depriving Mister Jeffs of his constitutional right to a speedy trial and that they've entered into an improper agreement," said Bugden.
Additional appeals will be made if necessary to "defend Mister Jeffs' right to a speedy trial and to be treated fairly," he said.
Asked how Jeffs is holding up, Bugden said: "He is doing just fine. He is very appreciative of the Utah Supreme Court's decision. He is a prayerful man and he feels, and the people who support Mister Jeffs believe, that their prayers were answered."
The charges against polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs
Utah • Accomplice to rape based on a marriage conducted between a 14-year-old girl and a 19-year-old man.
Texas • Bigamy, sexual assault, and aggravated sexual assault based on Jeffs' marriages to two underage girls.