warren-jeffs.jpgWarren Jeffs, arrested outside of Las Vegas on 8/29/06 has now begun his journey through the legal system. I have decided to post periodic Jeffs’ updates as he continues his legal journey. The case has many fascinating aspects, and is clearly a popular topic, from a legal standpoint and also cultural.

The Formal Legal Charges:

First, I think in important to clarify exactly why Warren Jeffs has been arrested. He has not been charged with polygamy or bigamy or related charges. Rather, the primary state charges Jeffs faces revolves around arranging marriages between underaged girls and older men. Specifically, Utah has charged Jeffs with two counts of a first degree felony:

Rape as an accomplice, a first degree felony, in that, acting with the required mental state, Warren Steed Jeffs solicited, requested, commanded, encouraged, or intentionally aided another to commit sexual intercourse with another person without the victim’s consent, in that Jane Doe IV was 14 years of age or older, but younger than 18 years of age, and John Doe IV was more than three years older than Jane and enticed or coerced Jane to submit or participate in sexual intercourse in violation of Utah Code Annotated [sections] 76-5-402, 76-5-406(11) and 76-2-202 (1953, as amended).

To support these allegations, Utah was required to produce evidence of probable cause to support its arrest and search warrants against Mr. Jeffs. The state met this burden by providing a neutral judge a sworn affidavit of probable cause, by Shauna Jones, a sergeant with the Washington County Sherriff’s Office who has been involved in law enforcement for over 10 years. Ms. Jones provided in relevant part the following sworn facts used to support Utah’s affidavit in support of its warrant:

Between January 2006 and March 2006 law enforcement officials conducted interviews with a woman identified for purposes of this Affidavit as Jane Doe IV (hereafter “Jane”). Jane has requested that her identity be withheld at this time. During the interviews, Jane related the following:

Jane was a resident of Hildale, Utah and a follower of Warren Steed Jeffs (hereafter “Jeffs”), whom she believed to be a prophet of God and her spiritual leader.

When Jane was between the age of fourteen and eighteen years old, religious leaders told Jane that God had revealed that she was to enter into a spiritual marriage with a man (John Doe IV–hereinafter John) more than three years older than Jane.

Prior to the spiritual marriage, Jane personally met with Jeffs in Hildale, Utah. Jane told Jeffs that she had concerns about the marriage revelation and that she felt like she was too young to marry.

Jeffs told Jane that it was her spiritual duty to submit to the marriage and that the marriage arrangement was “from God.”

After Jane’s meeting with Jeffs, she and John were driven from Utah to Nevada. In Nevada, Jeffs performed a marriage ceremony for Jane and John. After the ceremony, Jeffs instructed Jane and John to “multiply and replenish the earth and raise children in the priesthood.”

After returning to Hildale, within approximately a month, John reminded Jane that Jeffs had instructed them to have children in order to replenish the earth and that “now was the time.”

Against Jane’s will and without her consent, Joh had sexual intercourse with Jane in Hildale, Utah.

After John had sexual intercourse with Jane, Jane met with Jeffs and told him that she did not want to stay in the spiritual marriage because she hated having “husband-wife” relations with John. Jane told Jeffs that she was uncomfortable with John touching Jane’s private parts. Jane said neither she nor Jeffs used the words sex or sexual intercourse because it was culturally not permitted to use those specific words. However, Jane believes that there is no question that Jeffs understood that they were talking about sexual relations.

In response to Jane’s concerns, Jeffs told Jane that she must remain in the spiritual marriage. Jeffs said that she must do whatever John told her to do because John was Jane’s priesthood head and leader. s Jeffs said, Go back and repent. You go give yourself mind, body, and soul to your husband like you’re supposed to. He will take you into the heavenly kingdom. Go back and do what he tells you to do.”

Because Jeffs told Jane that she must remain in the spiritual marriage and do whatever John told her to do, Jane stayed in the marriage and continued to have sexual intercourse with John even though she did not want to participate.

In one meeting between Jane and Jeffs, Jeffs told her that she must obey her husband and that over time she would grow to love him. Jeffs told Jane that she should have children with John because having a baby would change everything.

At another meeting, Jeffs told Jane “No matter what happens you cannot fight with the priesthood because if you do you’ll lose your salvation.” Jeffs’ remarks frightened Jane and she stayed in the marriage to secure her salvation.

Jane showed [Shauna] photographs of Jane and John taken on their wedding day. The photos confirm the occurrence of the spiritual marriage as well as other details provided by Jane.

Bail Status:

Warren Jeffs is currently being held without bail. The State of Utah has asked the court to continue to hold Jeffs without bail because they believe he is a flight risk. Utah’s motion for denial of bail is here. The essense of Utah’s motion is that:

1. At the time of Warren Jeffs’ arrest, his own conduct along with items obtained inside of the vehicle establish clear and convincing evidence that he is likely to flee the jurisdiction if released on bail.

This is probably Utah’s best argument given the facts about what Jeffs had in his vehicle at the time of his arrest, including:

When polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs was stopped Monday on a highway in Clark County, Nev., the red Cadillac Escalade SUV in which he was riding was found to contain the following items, according to FBI special agent in charge Steven Martinez.

2 other people: his wife Naomi and brother Isaac Steve Jeffs

$54,000 in cash

15 cellphones

4 portable radios

duffel bag containing numerous unopened envelopes suspected of containing additional cash

3 wigs

multiple pairs of sunglasses

4 laptops

GPS device

police scanner

numerous gift cards totaling some $10,000

2. Jeffs should be held without bail because no amount of money will compel his appearance, and he has an enormous network of followers who will support him financially, and help him evade capture.

Again, another strong argument given his religious status as prophet to thousands of people, and his access to vast amounts of cash.

Defense Counsel:

Mr. Jeffs has just retained prominent Utah defense counsel, Walter Bugden and Tara Isaacson of Budgen and Isaacson. According to today’s Salt Lake Tribune the pair are quite creative and successful in their criminal practice:

With his trademark bow tie and deliberately mismatched socks, Bugden appears a bit eccentric at first impression. But he is a no-nonsense advocate with 28 years of experience. And with more than 200 criminal trials under his belt, Bugden ranks among Utah’s top defense attorneys.

In 2000, Bugden and Isaacson won an acquittal for psychiatrist Robert Weitzel, accused of killing five elderly patients with morphine overdoes in Davis County. Weitzel was charged with five homicide counts, but Bugden and Isaacson convinced jurors Weitzel ordered the morphine as end-of-life care.

Steve Major, a Davis County deputy attorney who faced Bugden and Isaacson in the Weitzel trial, said the pair are professional and accomplished lawyers. “They are very good attorneys,” Major said. “They’re very creative.”

During the past six years, Bugden has won 22 of 27 trials, ranging from manslaughter, negligent homicide, forcible sexual abuse, rape, assault and drunk driving, according to Bugden and Isaacson’s Web site. During her 10-year career, Isaacson has won 15 jury acquittals, the site says.

Next Court Hearing:

A prelimary hearing was scheduled for 9/19/06; however, with the recent retention of defense counsel, that hearing has been postponed. Mr. Jeffs’ next hearing has been scheduled for 9/27/06, at which time a new preliminary hearing will be likely be scheduled. They may also discuss bail at that 9/27 hearing.

What to expect:

This is a good question–who really knows? Reading the affidavit raises some questions in my mind. The complete lack of discussion of sexual activity between the alleged minor and her husband could be troubling. The affidavit claims Jeffs had to know that the young victim was being raped; but, you can bet Jeffs’ new attorneys will make much out of that bit of speculation. One possible defense is that Jeffs while performing a “spiritual” marriage had no idea there would be non-consensual physical activity. He might argue that his counsel to be fruitful and multiply was to be reserved for a later time when the young bride had grown not only in age but in her “spiritual” marriage. He might even argue the marriage and union were to remain “spiritual” for a number of years until consent. It seems there is furtile ground for Jeffs’ newly retained and talented defense counsel to plow here.

It will be an interesting trial to watch. More to come.