Warren Jeffs arraigned in Texas on sex charges

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs has been arraigned in Texas after being quietly extradited from Utah to face trial on bigamy and sexual assault charges.

Jeffs was in a West Texas courtroom Wednesday for the hearing. Jeffs faces charges of bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and assault charges for incidents involving underage girls at the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch near Eldorado. The charges stem from information gleaned from church and family records seized during a raid in April 2008.

The Texas Attorney General's Office says Jeffs wasn't asked to enter a plea and told the judge he needed time to find a lawyer.

Jeffs is being held without bond at a jail outside San Angelo in West Texas. During the hearing, District Judge Barbara Walther read Jeffs the indictment and asked if he understood the charges. He declined to sign a scheduling order that laid out the dates of his court appearances, Strickland said.

Strickland called the jail choice an issue of "security." He did not elaborate, but noted that prosecutors were not approaching the case differently because of Jeffs' high profile.

"When you have sexual assault of a child, it doesn't matter who you are," Strickland said.

The 54-year-old Jeffs leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. His first trial is scheduled for Jan. 24.

Though an extradition agreement was signed by both Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Texas Gov. Rick Perry earlier this year, Jeff's defense attorneys tried to prevent the extradition on the grounds that sending Jeffs to Texas before the pending criminal case in Utah is resolved is a denial of his right to a speedy trial. They had filed a petition for emergency relief with the Utah Court of Appeals, which indicated it would hear the case and stayed the extradition pending their decision.

Soon after, the case was transferred to the Utah Supreme Court, which dismissed the request and the Utah Court of Appeals' stay in a brief, two-line statement.

"The petition is denied, the stay previously imposed by the Court of Appeals is lifted and the appeal is dismissed," the order states.

Jeffs was incarcerated at the Utah State Prison 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.

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.


Story written with contributions from Paul Weber with the Associated Press and Emiley Morgan.

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