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Polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs was arraigned in a West Texas courtroom today following his Tuesday night extradition from Utah.
Jeffs appeared in a Tom Green County District Court Wednesday morning. During the 15-minute arraignment, Judge Barbara Walther, of the 51st District Court, read Jeffs his rights, announced and explained the three charges he faces and showed him copies of the indictments. Angela Goodwin, a prosecutor with the Texas Attorney General's office, was present at the arraignment.
Walther asked Jeffs, who does not yet have an attorney, whether he wanted her to appoint one to him.
"I need more time," Jeffs said.
He did not enter a plea. A pretrial court appearance was scheduled for Dec. 8 at 9 a.m.
The 54-year-old Jeffs arrived Tuesday night at Reagan County Jail in Big Lake, Texas. He flew out of Salt Lake City International Airport about 4 p.m. Tuesday with a Texas Ranger and an officer from the Texas Attorney General's Office, said Utah Corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke.
Last week, the Utah Supreme Court denied a petition for emergency relief filed by Jeffs' attorneys and lifted a stay of extradition imposed by the Court of Appeals on Nov. 15.
Utah Assistant Attorney General Craig Barlow said the transfer of Jeffs to Texas custody was intentionally done with no fanfare.
"There was no reason to turn this into a potential security issue. They like to move forward in such cases with the least amount of fuss they can," Barlow said.
"After the Utah Supreme Court made its decision last week, there really was no legal reason for him not to be transferred," he added.
Jeffs' departure already had been delayed last week due to winter storms.
Defense attorney Walter Bugden did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday. He and other defense lawyers had fought extradition, saying that it would violate Jeffs' right to a speedy retrial in Utah on accomplice-to-rape charges.
Jeffs was convicted of those charges in 2007, but the state Supreme Court overturned his conviction this year. Prosecutors have not decided whether to re-try Jeffs on those charges.
The court didn't release its reasoning behind the decision, but earlier this month, 3rd District Judge Terry Christiansen sided with the state, ruling that only the governor, not the courts, can approve or deny an extradition unless there are serious due-process issues.
Jeffs has been imprisoned for more than four years following his arrest on accomplice-to-rape charges related to his presiding over a marriage between an unwilling 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
Two days after the Utah Supreme Court overturned his conviction, citing faulty jury instructions, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed extradition documents. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert approved them.
The Texas charges of aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and bigamy were filed in 2008 after authorities raided the sect's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado. They relate to an alleged spiritual marriage between Jeffs and a 12-year-old girl, and a baby that Jeffs allegedly fathered with another underage girl.
If convicted on the single most serious of those charges, he faces up to 99 years in prison. Other Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints men who have been found guilty of sexual assault following the raid on the YFZ Ranch have been required to serve half their prison sentences before being eligible for parole.
Jeffs, 54, is the ecclesiastical leader of the FLDS. The sect has about 10,000 members, mostly in Utah, Arizona, Texas and British Columbia, Canada.
The San Angelo Standard-Times and Tribune reporter Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this story