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SALT LAKE CITY — According to attorneys for the State of Utah, it's as simple as this: Warren Jeffs should go to Texas because an extradition warrant has been signed by the governor.
The state filed its response to polygamist leader Jeffs' petition for emergency relief that would halt his extradition to Texas for criminal prosecution Wednesday.
In the response filed by Assistant Attorney General Craig Barlow, it is argued that Jeffs should be extradited because Gov. Gary Herbert has signed an executive agreement authorizing Jeffs' extradition and a reversal of the order would require the Utah Court of Appeals to "turn its back on a rich history of extradition law."
Barlow also argues that Jeffs meets all the criteria of extradition, that a state judge has already rejected Jeffs claim and did so correctly and that this request may exceed the limits of what role the judicial system can play when an extradition warrant is in place.
The Utah Court of Appeals said Monday it would consider Jeffs' petition — just hours after a state judge rejected the request, saying he had no authority to decide the issue or to overrule the Utah governor's decision.
The appeals court will determine whether Jeffs, the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints, will, in fact, be extradited to Texas or if he will remain in Utah to resolve a long-running pending criminal case.
Jeffs, 54, is currently incarcerated at the Utah State Prison. He has been held there since he was arrested, prosecuted and convicted on two charges of rape as an accomplice for his role in marrying a 14-year-old FLDS follower to her 19-year-old cousin — a time totaling 50 months.
The Utah Supreme Court overturned the 2007 convictions in June and sent the case back to the 5th District Court in St. George. Utah prosecutors have yet to decide whether they'll retry Jeffs.
In the meantime, Texas authorities have charged Jeffs with bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and assault charges for alleged incidents involving underage girls at a church ranch near Eldorado. The charges stem from information gleaned from church and family records seized during a raid on the Yearning for Zion ranch in April 2008.
Story compiled with contributions from Emiley Morgan and The Associated Press.