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Sect Leader Could be Taken to Arizona in Two to Six Months

Sect Leader Could be Taken to Arizona in Two to Six Months



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AP Photo / Jud Burkett, Pool PHOENIX (AP) -- It could be two to six months before polygamous-sect leader Warren Jeffs is taken to Arizona to face charges involving marriages of two teenage girls and older men, an Arizona prosecutor said Wednesday.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith told The Associated Press that prosecutors are eager to move forward, but that the longer it takes for Jeffs to be brought to Arizona, the longer attorneys will have to prepare their cases.

"We're working on the cases now, so this is just more time for us to prepare, too," he said. "That's not a bad thing."

Smith said, however, that the time has come for Jeffs to answer to the Arizona charges. "It's just time to bring this case to a close and to find out what's going to happen here," he said. "We'd like to see it resolved, hopefully favorably."

Jeffs' Utah attorney, Wally Bugden, declined to comment, referring the AP to Jeffs' Arizona lawyer, Mike Piccarreta. A call to Piccarreta's office was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Jeffs, 51, is head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose members practice polygamy in arranged marriages that often involve placing young girls with older men.

He faces four felony charges in Arizona in a 2005 case involving marriages of two teenage girls and older men who were their relatives. Jeffs also is charged as an accomplice with four counts of incest and four counts of sexual contact with a minor in an indictment handed up earlier this year for similar cases.

Both prosecutions have been on hold pending Jeffs' trial in Utah, which ended in September with convictions on two counts of rape by accomplice. Jeffs was sentenced Tuesday in St. George, Utah, to two consecutive terms of five years to life in prison. He had been charged for his role in the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old follower and her 19-year-old cousin.

Smith called the sentence "puzzling," saying Jeffs could be released within a few years or spend the rest of his life in prison. "You have no idea really when he's going to be released," he said. "You really don't have any feel for it, so it's kind of indeterminate and ambiguous."

He said he's not sure what effect, if any, the Utah sentencing will have on the Arizona cases. "It's a whole new ball game here -- different charges, different elements of the crimes, different people involved on both sides," he said.

The FLDS church practices polygamy and represents itself as an offshoot of the mainstream Mormon church, based in Salt Lake City. The Church of Jesus Christ, however, disavow any connection and renounced polygamy in 1890 as a condition of statehood.

The FLDS is based in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., home to about 6,000 residents.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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