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A leadership dispute within a polygamous sect took a step closer to a courtroom Thursday.
Utah Division of Corporations officials said in a statement that neither jailed leader Warren S. Jeffs nor challenger William E. Jessop has presented "clear evidence" of a right to head the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' legal entity.
The two men have until Aug. 3 to either both sign a document agreeing on a leader or get a court order determining who is in authority, division officials stated.
"While Mr. Jessop would prefer to avoid resorting to the courts, he is holding open all of his options," his attorney, Mark James, said Thursday.
Jessop, 41, filed papers in late March seeking to replace Jeffs, 55, as president of the FLDS Corporation of the President. The president has usually been the sect's prophet.
A flurry of paperwork followed. Jeffs supporters fired back with affidavits stating that Jeffs has the support of thousands of FLDS members.
Jessop, however, said those people are being kept faithful with threats and intimidation. He supported his claim to the presidency with a series of recorded phone calls Jeffs made in 2007 naming him as the true prophet of the church.
While the division officials kept a hold in place on the change to the sect's Corporation of the President, they released the hold on the group's other corporate entity, the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop, and it reverted back to Jeffs' control.
Jeffs is now in a Texas jail awaiting trial on sexual assault and bigamy charges related to alleged underage marriages.
"The Utah Division of Corporations and Commercial Code will never determine who is president of the FLDS church," officials wrote in Thursday's statement. "The division is only seeking to establish who has authority to make changes to the principals on either of the two corporations sole belonging to the FLDS church."