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Efforts to extradite polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs from Utah to face felony charges in Texas are the result of an "ungodly alliance" between the two states that tramples Jeffs' constitutional right to a speedy trial, according to documents filed recently in 3rd District Court by Jeff's defense team.
The governor of Texas signed extradition papers just two days after the Utah Supreme Court in July overturned Jeffs' 2007 conviction on two counts of first–degree felony rape as an accomplice, granting him a new trial.
The high court found "serious errors" in instructions given to the jury during Jeffs' trial. Washington County jurors convicted Jeffs, now 54, of performing a marriage in 2001 between Allen Glade Steed, then 19, and Elissa Wall, then 14.
Jeffs is the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has about 10,000 members, mostly in Utah, Arizona, Texas and British Columbia, Canada. Wall testified during Jeffs' trial that she objected to the union and, initially, to having sex with her husband, but Jeffs ignored her requests to be let out of the marriage.
Defense attorneys Walter Bugden Jr. and Tara Isaacson say Jeffs wants his new trial as soon as possible. Otherwise, Utah authorities should dismiss the charges, the defense says.
If Jeffs is sent to Texas where he is charged with bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault for his alleged spiritual marriages to two underage girls it could be years before he is returned to Utah.
"Rather than finish the fight, Utah wants to call time-out so it can lick its wounds and regroup," according to defense documents, which allege a "conspiracy" between Utah and Texas.
"It costs Utah a lot of money to keep Mr. Jeffs in prison, and it would cost Utah a lot of money to attempt to retry him," the defense writes. "It would be easier and more cost-effective for Utah to pawn him off to Texas."
The defense notes that the case already involves testimony and evidence from years ago. Further delay will mean witnesses will be difficult to relocate, and their memories, documents and other evidence may be lost, the defense asserts.
The defense claims one of the "greatest prejudices" of further delay stems from recent allegations that a midwife lied during Jeffs' trial when she said she possessed original medical records regarding Wall's 2002 miscarriage. But prosecutors say the records may have been re-created, and it is possible that Wall, either wittingly or unwittingly, helped the midwife reconstruct the records. A spokesman for the Utah Attorney General's Office said Monday the investigation is continuing.
If Jeffs is convicted in Texas, Utah can "quietly dismiss its case against him here, sweeping under the rug the glaring problems with its prosecution," the defense asserts."Utah saves face. Texas saves the day," the defense writes. "There are politics at play here; only the blind can't see it. And the game is being played at the expense of Mr. Jeffs' constitutional rights."
P The state's response to the defense motion is due by Friday. A hearing regarding the extradition issue is set for Nov. 15 before Judge Terry Christiansen.