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Within hours of a judge's decision that polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs must be extradited to Texas to face sexual assault and bigamy charges, the Utah Court of Appeals agreed to consider the case and keep Jeffs in Utah at least two more days.
Jeffs' defense attorneys argue the extradition violates his right to a speedy re-trial on accomplice to rape charges in Utah.
But 3rd District Judge Terry Christiansen sided with prosecutors, who argued once a governor signs an extradition order, the court does not have the authority to reverse it unless the documents are wrong.
"I don't believe it's proper for this court to substitute its judgment for that of the governor," Christiansen said in his ruling at the 2:30 p.m. hearing.
Jeffs attorney Walter Bugden immediately appealed the decision, and late Monday afternoon theUtah Court of Appeals agreed to halt the extradition at least until Wednesday, when prosecutors' response to Jeffs' appeal is due at the end of the day.
A decision on the appeal will likely take another day or two, a court spokeswoman said.
The 54-year-old Jeffs appeared at the hearing Monday wearing a dark suit, silver-framed glasses and shackles. He seemed serene, smiling at times and acknowledging people in the courtroom gallery. He showed no emotion when Christiansen ruled that he would be sent to Texas.
In 2007, Jeffs was convicted of accomplice to rape in a case involving a 14-year-old girl who was forced to marry her 19-year-old cousin, but that conviction was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court earlier this year. The justices cited faulty juror instructions.
Washington County prosecutors have not yet decided whether they will re-try Jeffs.
Bugden argued that if Jeffs is sent to Texas, it will be at least a year until he is returned, marking a decade since the marriage at issue in the trial took place. If Jeffs is convicted in Texas, he faces up to 99 years in prison on just one of three charges.
"It's very difficult to try a case in which the facts are 10 years old," Bugden said, pointing to recent questions about the integrity of medical documents introduced as evidence in the 2007 trial.
But Assistant Utah Attorney General Craig Barlow said lawyers can work on that case while Jeffs is in Texas.
"This is not an unusual case. This is as common as corn," he said.
Jeffs is charged in Texas with bigamy, aggravated sexual assault of a child and sexual assault.
The first two charges against Jeffs are based on an alleged spiritual marriage between Jeffs and a 12-year-old girl in 2006 at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. The third involves a child Jeffs allegedly fathered with another underage girl the year before.
Prosecutors filed those charges two years ago, following a raid on the YFZ Ranch by Texas authorities after Jeffs was imprisoned in Utah. Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed extradition papers two days after Jeffs' conviction was overturned, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert approved them.
Jeffs is the ecclesiastical leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The sect has about 10,000 members, mostly in Utah, Arizona, Texas and British Columbia, Canada.
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